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tee time Rookie John Murphy is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Harrington at Club de Campo


Graeme McDowell is grappling with the mental side of the game

Graeme McDowell is grappling with the mental side of the game

Graeme McDowell is grappling with the mental side of the game

Pádraig Harrington knows how it feels to be the rookie battling for a foothold on tour and he’s given Kinsale’s John Murphy a massive vote of confidence ahead of this week’s Acciona Open de España in Madrid.

More than 25 years after Harrington claimed his maiden win at the Club de Campo, Murphy (23) will bid to ride the momentum of his tie for ninth in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Sunday and try to become the sixth Irish champion.

The Cork man could all but secure his card with a top-three finish this week, and he’s certainly impressed the 1996 Spanish Open winner.

“He’s very good that lad,” said Harrington, who made his breakthrough at the same Club de Campo course in just his 10th professional start.

“He has a really nice manner about him. I was very impressed. He played great on Sunday and did anything you could ask of him.

“He is a good, athletic-looking player. He’s long and looks like he has everything you could need, and you can’t beat a good start to your career, which is what he’s having. John’s in the driving seat now.”

Five Irishmen have won the Spanish Open since 1972, and while world No 1 Jon Rahm is trying to follow in the footsteps of Nick Faldo (Irish Open), Ian Woosnam (Monte Carlo Open) and Colin Montgomerie (Volvo PGA) by winning the same event three years running, Murphy dares to dream.

“It would be lovely to follow in Pádraig’s footsteps and become the sixth,” said the Kinsale man, who could make next week’s Andalucía Masters at Valderrama with another top 10, but knows he can’t afford to think that way.

“It’s very easy to get caught up trying to work out what would happen if I did this or that, but at the end of the day, if you play well enough, the tour will make room for you.”

Like Jonathan Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin, he’s hoping to stop Rahm from matching Seve Ballesteros with a third win.

“It doesn’t matter what event it is,” Rahm said. “Not many people have been able to win one three times in a row, so I’m hoping I can get it done – it would be truly my honour.”

Meanwhile, Graeme McDowell (42) makes his first start of the new PGA Tour season with Séamus Power in the Shriners Children’s Open in Las Vegas.

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After falling from 61st to 236th in the world in the last year, he knows it’s a new attitude and his old swing he needs to compete not more power.

“The couple of months I was out this summer gave me time to reflect and I’ve come to the conclusion that what’s going to hold me back the next few years isn’t physical, it’s mental,” he told Golfweek.

“There’s nothing wrong with me physically and nothing wrong with my game.

“Do guys hit it 50 yards past me? Yeah, but guys hit it 50 yards by a lot of people. It’s not just me.

“I’m long enough to compete on certain courses – my iron play, chipping and putting is good enough to compete anywhere. I have to start doing what I do better, instead of looking for some magic potion that doesn’t exist.”

On the LPGA Tour, Leona Maguire leads the Irish challenge alongside Stephanie Meadow and Monday qualifier Olivia Mehaffey in the Cognizant Founders Cup in New Jersey, where world No 1 Nelly Korda tees it up for the first time since the Solheim Cup.

Open de Espana Sky Sports Golf (13:00)

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open Sky Sports Golf (14:30/22:00)

Cognizant Founders Cup Sky Sports Golf (19:00)

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