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Harrington's Major Year

Iain Carter | 09:51 UK time, Monday, 15 December 2008

Padraig Harrington was sitting in a Southport hotel and passers-by were looking on with concern. His mind didn't seem in the right place. Then again why should it be? His chances of defending the Open were hanging on the damaged fibres of a strained tendon.

This was the eve of the Championship and Harrington found himself relying on not just a golfing colleague, but a major rival.

Phil Mickelson was lending the Irishman a piece of kit that might help heal the wrist injury that had restricted the champion's pre-tournament practice to a mere nine holes.

The damage had been done the previous Sunday when Harrington had been performing strengthening exercises by swinging one-handed into an impact bag stuffed full of towels.

Phil Mickelson has one of these light laser devices that helps you get into the deep tissue," Harrington revealed. "I rang him on the Sunday and had been up to his hotel a couple of times to get treatment.

"On the Wednesday evening I happened to be in the hotel waiting for him to come back from dinner. I was sitting there and I was actually visualising how I was going to play the golf course," added Harrington in an exclusive interview that will be aired on BBC Five Live on Tuesday December 16.

So unable to play real practice rounds, the champion from Carnoustie 12 months earlier was doing the next best thing and going through the challenges of Royal Birkdale in his head.

This would explain the distant, distracted look on his face, not that passers-by were aware of this. They thought they were seeing a player distraught at the prospect of missing his title defence.

"I got interrupted a couple of times by well-meaning people who actually kind of knew me through golf. They were thinking that I was going to be pulling out of the event.

"Luckily there wasn't a balcony because if there was I think they would have thought I was going to jump off, but I was actually just visualising my first round and making use of my time," Harrington said.

And the rest, as they say.....

In the following four days the Irishman retained the Claret Jug and within three weeks had made it back-to-back majors with victory at the US PGA.


He reflects on both wins in the Five Live Sport programme "Harrington's Major Year". Talking about his Oakland Hills triumph he reveals the secret boost he gained with an unrecognised birdie in his rain-interrupted third round.

"I had just birdied the ninth when they blew the horn on the Saturday, but they hadn't recorded it," Harrington said. "I was one more under par than everybody thought so I was coming back to start the second half of my round on the Sunday morning with one already in the bag.

"That's a great feeling. It was like I was being given a birdie."

Harrington also details how he overcame exhaustion and dehydration to claim the third major of what has fast become an outstanding career.

He also admits he is still struggling to come to terms with what he has achieved. "When I compare myself with the other guys who have won three majors (Mickelson, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh) I start saying to myself, 'these are guys that I looked up to, I still look up to. These are guys that I fear and I wish that I was as good as them.

"And then you look at the results and you think 'ooh, maybe I am.' That's hard to come to terms with."

Sergio Garcia, the man Harrington beat to win his first Open and again to win the US PGA, and Lee Westwood, who came close to winning this year's US Open, also give the programme their opinions on what the Dubliner has achieved.

Undoubtedly Harrington has been the prime mover in the absence of the injured Tiger Woods and his challenge is to sustain that momentum when the world number one returns.

The Irishman has done what Mickelson, Els and Singh (among many others) were unable to do. He fully capitalised on Woods' absence.

Harrington has not just muscled his way into that elite group immediately below Woods -he has become its main man.

It's nothing more than a mischievous thought, but I wonder if Mickelson would be so generous with his medical equipment next time?

("Harrington's Major Year" Five Live Sport 8pm Tuesday December 16.)


  • Comment number 1.

    1st comment!

  • Comment number 2.

    Good article about the "Major" part of the programme's title.

    (Though I wonder what Garcia now has to say about Harrington's outspoken ambivalence towards him.)

    However, surely any programme on Harrington's "Year" should address the flip side.

    Grading Padraig you'd have to give him A+ for the Majors but a big fat F for his Ryder Cup failure:
    *failure to be prepared for it,
    *failure to address his state of exhaustion, *failure to perform on the golf course,
    *failure to stand down so someone more interested and committed could take his place.
    (Identical comments apply also to Garcia.)

  • Comment number 3.

    What is the point in 'first comment'?

    Anyway, great year for Padraig, very pleased for him, and I think he can sustain his major form, possibly mounting a challenge at the Masters. Here's hoping anyway!

  • Comment number 4.

    Fourth comment!

  • Comment number 5.

    People somewhat rightly claim that Harrington has been the only man to step into the void left by Woods, at least in terms of dominating the majors.
    However, are we not forgetting Sergio Garcia is now 2nd in the world and only 4.25 points behind Woods. Is it inconcievable that if Woods struggles when he comes back and Garcia's putter behaves itself we could see Sergio overtake the great man in 2009?
    Maybe I'm being biased as a Sergio fan but I think 2009 could be a good year for Europeans in major competitions with 5 of the worlds top 10 currently being from Europe.
    Whatever the case may be congratulaions to Padraig and roll on Augusta............

  • Comment number 6.

    kwiniaskagolfer... What utter nonsense!

    Myerscough_golfer...Yes we all look forward to a successful European 2009. However I doubt Sergio will lead the charge. When the pressure is on in the majors his putting will let him down!

  • Comment number 7.

    How would you describe Harrington's Ryder Cup? To watch him at the postmortem Press Conf was to watch a man going thru the motions, utterly whacked.

    A+ for your individual season Padraig, but you weren't fit for the Ryder Cup, which just goes to show you have something in common with Sergio after all. And surely that's an essential part of Harrington's Major Year?

  • Comment number 8.

    I agree that Harrington was disappointingly poor at the Ryder cup but what he has done for European golf since the 2007 Open more than makes up for it in my eyes.

  • Comment number 9.

    Agreed Harrington was whacked for the Ryder Cup. However he will not be remembered for his performance in the Ryder more for what he did in the majors. He has nothing whatever in common with Serg. Serg will be remembered for bottling when it came to the crunch. His putting does not hold up to the 'real' pressure cooker of 'going down the stretch' in the majors.

  • Comment number 10.

    Lion, Robo,
    I agree that Harrington's year was exceptional, should be PGA Tour Player Of The Year, and every other accolade that might come his way. Hard earned and richly deserved.

    I was just trying to make the point that Padraig and Sergio (he certainly didn't bottle the TPC - he'll win his share of Majors) exhausted themselves playing in the FedEx events and had no gas left in the tank for the Ryder Cup.

    If "Europe" don't care to learn from mistakes in 2008, there should be no surprise if history repeats itself in future Ryder Cups.

  • Comment number 11.

    Agreed that the pursuit of riches inspired by the FedEx tourneys left little in the tank for Serg and Pod.

    However I, reluctantly, disagree that Serg will win any majors. It will a long time before he gets rid of the demons for the 2 majors he bottled. That is not to devalue how Pod won them. I feel Serg cannot take the pressure. He always has a nagging doubt about his putting...

  • Comment number 12.

    Golf is an individual sport. Harrington excelled at the majors this year and had nothing in the tank for the TEAM event, the ryder cup. In the heat of Team battle, it is very difficult to reconcile their individual rivalry which probably explains Tigers poor historical performance and Sergio and Paddys flatness this year.

    Garcia is pushing the world rankings but would surely prefer to have Paddy's 3 majors. Their mutual dislike comes from their competitiveness. After the Open 07 Sergio was an ungracious loser to Paddy's generous acceptance speech commiserations and he responded at a later time in a similar swiping fashion.

    I believe that, like Paddy, Sergio will eventually learn what it takes to deliver a major. He has a few years on Paddy and it takes time to mature. Looking forward to some excellent golfing achievements by both men (and the rest of the European golfers - watch out for Rory McIlroy) over the next few years!

  • Comment number 13.

    Padraig was amazing this year aswell as Sergio, and not forgetting some other memorable performances by other european golfers in the Majors this year.

    BUT. It has to be said there is something wrong with the European selection process for the Ryder Cup. Yes the players who have the highest points get themsleves into the top 10 to be automatically picked, but is this right. I think not.

    The 12 best players who play as a team and thrive on each others shot play should be in the Ryder Cup team. Of course this will include some of the top 10 players, but it may also include players outside the top 10, dare I say it.

    Ok some of you might say it should be the best of USA versus the best of Europe. But on the day (or 3 days), it is not always the case that the best players perform as we have seen.

    Padraigs record for the last 2 Ryder Cups has been poor, but perhaps he can do something else for the team on the day. Perhaps Tiger Woods can do something different on the day. The Ryder Cup is a completley different ball game to a Major.

    I saw some footage of Faldo after one of his Open wins, he sang 'I did it my way'. Enough said.

    I take my hat off to the USA team at Valhalla, they were amazing. Hard luck to the Europeans, lets hope they have a great game at Celtic Park Manor.

  • Comment number 14.

    It's easy to slate Harrington for his poor performance in the Ryder Cup but over the year's he has been one of Europe's better performers.

    If you look at Tiger's Ryder Cup record, it isn't outstanding so we need to get things in perspective.


  • Comment number 15.

    It is easy to slate Harrington, but that is not what i am doing, I am a big Padraig fan, and a big sergio fan. I am torn when the pair of them both playing.

    But you are correct, some of his other performances over the years have been better than others.

    My point being that in the years of Padraigs Major wins, his Ryder Cup play has been poor. So can he on a successful year do something else for the team. A year with Major wins must really take it out of a man, mentally and physically.

    So to put it into perspective.

    Tiger has performed well in Majors most years - poor Ryder Cup Record, or not outstanding as the case may be.

    Padraig when not winning Majors, has performed well in Ryder Cups. Last couple of years of Winning some majors, of building up to it, has not performed well in Ryder Cups.

  • Comment number 16.

    Well done Paddy, should have been B.B.C. overseas star of the year but I'm sure he's not losing any sleep over it.

    Who cares how he performs in the biennial yawn a.k.a. the Ryder cup. He's now at the stage that Tiger is at concerning this twice yearly pain in the backside.

  • Comment number 17.

    i do say that this egotistical publication of consumation may be easily if not practically disregarded as a point of veiw!



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