Pros advice

Harrington set for Olympics after McDowell withdrawal

Padraig Harrington will get to live his dream of stepping out onto the golf course as an Olympian after fellow Irishman Graeme McDowell became the latest in a string of high-profile players to withdraw from Rio this August.

Rory McIlroy pulled out of the grand event on Wednesday after citing he was concerned about the Zika virus, while McDowell’s wife is due to give birth around the same time of the Olympics and he doesn’t want to miss it.

Harrington, 44, has three major titles under his belt and is now poised to link up with countryman Shane Lowry in an event which will see golf return to the Olympic stage for the first time in 112 years.

There is little chance that Harrington will decide he too does not want to compete after revealing his desire to play in the event during the Dunhill Links Championship at Carnoustie two years ago when he was down in 324th place in the World Rankings.

“I don’t normally tell the media my goals, but I will this time and my aim is to return to the top 15 of the world by 2016 for the Olympics,” he said. “I’d just love to be an Olympic athlete; it would be very special.”

Harrington might still be struggling for form, currently sitting 167th in the World Rankings – the withdrawals of those around him will no doubt give him a huge boost of confidence.

“Based on the current ranking points I am next in line for automatic selection to the Irish Olympic team. I will work very hard over the next few weeks to achieve this selection as it would be a huge honour for me to represent Ireland, having played an active role in golf's bid to be re-included in the Olympic Games programme," Harrington said shortly after hearing the news about McDowell’s withdrawal.

McDowell has always stated that family affairs would come first in his Olympic decision. The 2010 US Open champion said: “I made the decision many months ago, before I was on the team, that I would not play or travel outside the US, where my family and I live, in the weeks running up to the birth.

“Unfortunately I will therefore not be available to replace Rory on the team. I have informed Paul McGinley and the Olympic Council of Ireland of my decision."

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