Padraig Harrington (AFP)
Rio - Some top golfers have passed on the
Olympics because of a hectic schedule and others have health concerns, but
three-time major winner Padraig Harrington is thrilled to be going and dreams
"I'm really looking forward to Rio. My
whole family are going," the 44-year-old Irishman said after a
long session on the practice putting green on a sizzling hot and stormy
Baltusrol, where the PGA Championship begins on Thursday.
"We're busy getting our tickets
organised for the second week that we're there. It's a big deal for us."
Harrington, winner of the 2008 PGA
Championship and two British Open titles (2007, 2008), accepted the honour of
playing for Ireland after the withdrawals of four-times major champion Rory
McIlroy and Graeme McDowell citing concerns over the Zika virus.
Later Shane Lowery also withdrew over Zika
worries, opening the door for 297th-ranked Seamus Power to join Harrington in
the 60-man Rio field as golf returns to the Olympic programme after an absence
of 112 years.
World No 1 Jason Day of Australia, the
defending PGA champion, and Americans Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth, ranked
second and third, respectively, also bowed out from Rio consideration due to
The mosquito-borne Zika virus, which the
World Health Organisation says is spreading rapidly in the Americas, can cause
crippling defects in babies and has been linked to the neurological disorder
Guillain-Barre in adults.
"I'm going down there to try and win.
No doubt about it, I believe I can win," said Harrington, who has slipped
to 150th in the world rankings.
Harrington, like others who played at the
Open at Royal Troon, are returning for the season's final major with just one
tournament week in between them in a tour season condensed to make room for the
Some players, including world No 8 Adam
Scott of Australia and South Africa's world number 15 Louis Oosthuizen, said
they opted out of the Rio Games for scheduling reasons.
Harrington said he had planned to play two
majors and the Olympics this summer. "I wanted to do my preparation for
all three and if I played well in one of those three would have a good chance
of winning," he said.
"It didn't happen at the (British) Open.
I've won three majors and I'm happy to take either," he said about this
week's PGA or next month's Summer Olympics.
"I could understand if you haven't won
a major, making that more of a priority. But I think an Olympic gold would add
a lot to my career."