Harrington eager to smell the roses as he 'defends' his crown
Jordan Spieth may have spent the last 12 months with the Claret Jug as his travelling companion but in Padraig Harrington’s mind, he’s the reigning Champion Golfer.
There’s some logic to the Irishman’s claim – after all, he triumphed the last time The Open ventured to Carnoustie back in 2007 – and so he returns to Angus with a point to prove.
But it won’t be all head down and hard work for the 46-year-old as he’s vowed to look up and smell the proverbial roses this week, a strategy he is also convinced will bring out his best golf.
A little bit more special
It’s the second year in a row Harrington has been ‘defending’ his Open crown, with the trip to Royal Birkdale 12 months ago the Open’s first since his 2008 triumph at the venue, and he admits the sensation adds a certain pep to his step.
“I look forward to playing in every Open Championship but this one, like last year at Royal Birkdale, where I’m kind of coming back as defending champion makes it a little bit more special,” he said.
“I’m familiar with Carnoustie – it’s always nice to be back and I will make the effort to enjoy myself.
“Hopefully that shows up because when we’re working hard with our head down, that can be misconstrued. So I’ll make the effort to look up and smell the roses this week.
“Experience is very important at Carnoustie and links experience is exceptionally important. It does play into the hands of guys who can thread the ball around.
“The beauty of the golf course is there are lots of ways to play it but eventually you’ll have to grow up and hit some big shots.”
The battle with the Barry Burn
Harrington’s drama-filled victory at Carnoustie 11 years ago was full of big shots but they weren’t all successful.
With one hand on the Claret Jug, he twice went into the Barry Burn on the 72nd hole and seemingly ended his chances of victory, only for Sergio Garcia to miss a ten-foot par putt for the title and lose the subsequent play-off.
Harrington again found the Burn on 18 during a practice round on Saturday but this time, the section in front of the green after a 457-yard drive – highlighting just how firm the fairways are this week.
Just played 18 at Carnoustie. Breeze down off the left. Hit it in the burn again. This time it was the one at the green,457 yards away. The fairways are a tad fast. #TheOpen #carnoustie #EuropeanTour pic.twitter.com/VgJFBJBfDV— Padraig Harrington (@padraig_h) July 14, 2018
“In 2007, the tee shot at 18 was so difficult and then yesterday I hit a four-iron and wedge into 18,” added Harrington. “It would have been easy if it was like that 11 years ago!
“The 18th is the toughest finishing hole in golf but it is based on circumstances, the weather and conditions.
“I stood on the tee on Sunday, looked where I hit it in the hazard and thought ‘how on earth could you hit it in there?’ because of the conditions this week.”
Magic number four?
A brilliant 13-month spell saw Harrington claim three majors – the 2008 PGA Championship in addition to his back-to-back Opens – and while that was a decade ago, the competitive part of the 46-year-old doesn’t think he’s done just yet.
“My career would have been a lot smoother if I won a major every five years rather than all in a short spell,” he mused. “That would have been a lot simpler to cope with.
“But it still goes down as three wins, and it always will, unless maybe I make it to four...”
If he can somehow become a four-time major winner on Sunday, then there certainly wouldn’t be any argument over who is the reigning Champion Golfer heading into next year.
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