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Harrington all in for golf’s Olympic return

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — Padraig Harrington was among the players who lobbied the International Olympic Committee when it was making a decision back in 2009 to give golf a place in the Games.

At the time, Harrington, now 44, was one of the top-ranked players in the world. He had won three major championships in two years, including the 2008 PGA Championship.

Seven years later, Harrington would not have expected to make it to Rio de Janeiro in a few weeks' time. He is ranked 150th in the world, and only two players per country — if not among the top 15 — are eligible.

But with Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell all electing to skip the Olympic golf tournament that begins on Aug. 11, Harrington's name came up for Ireland (which combines Northern Ireland and Ireland for the Olympics).

And he plans to take advantage of the situation.

Harrington said that his entire family will be joining him, and that they will stay for a second week after the men's competition is complete on Aug. 14.

"I think so much of the Olympics, I'm going to take a week's holiday and go to a number of events,'' Harrington said after shooting a 5-under-par 65 prior to the suspension of the third round of the PGA Championship. "It's an opportunity of a lifetime to really have a great week's holiday the second week.

"The first week will be all business, but hopefully the second week we'll have a good week, and hopefully I'll do enough this week and next week to get myself up in the FedEx points.''

Harrington plans to play the Travelers Championship outside of Hartford this coming week, then head to Rio de Janeiro on the Sunday night following the final round. He then looks to practice on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in advance of the first round. He will be joined by Ireland's Seamus Power.

And Harrington is serious about taking in other sports.

"Table tennis, gymnastics, diving, velodrome, boxing; I'm sure I'm missing out on one or two,'' he said. "I'm trying to do two things a day the second week.''

And he might even take in some of the women's Olympic golf tournament, which begins on Aug. 17 at the same venue.

"If one of the Irish girls was doing well (Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow), I'd definitely go back 100 percent,'' Harrington said. "I'd be interested in that. In general, I'm looking to see the sports I don't know, that I don't know much about. The likes of the velodrome and the cycling looks like it would be great fun to go do that.

"Obviously the boxing, we're looking for more than one medal in the boxing. From an Irish perspective, I think that's our best chance of winning.''

Harrington said he has never met the other Irish golfer, Power, who has qualified, but he plans to call him in advance and will be rooting for him to succeed.

"Very much so,'' Harrington said. "I'd be hoping that the two of us have a chance coming down the last nine holes, and at that stage, it's all for yourself. But up until that point, I'd be delighted if the two of us are 5 shots clear of the field on Sunday. That's the way you look at these things.

"If we were in a playoff to win, it would be …''

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