Harrington: “I’d be devastated with my career if I didn’t have an Irish Open”

Padraig Harrington and John O’Leary after winning the Irish Open on May 20, 2007 at the Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort

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Pádraig Harrington admits that winning the 2007 Irish Open at Adare Manor was perfectly timed as it gave him the confirmation that he could win major championships.

Home opens carry extra weight for players from that country and they are often referred to as their ‘fifth major’ and the Irish Open was no different for Harrington who became the first person since John O’Leary in 1982 to win on home soil.

At that stage of his career the Dubliner had passed up an opportunity to win the US Open in 2006 at Winged Foot which he described as tough to take but in a career that continued to trend upwards on a steady graph, winning the Irish Open was another step in the right direction.

It proved so as he won the Open Championship two months later at Carnoustie, beating Sergio García in a dramatic playoff. He also captured a second Claret Jug at Birkdale in 2008 and a third major in two years at the PGA Championship when he again edged Garcia in another famous battle en route to winning the 2008 European Order of Merit.

“It beautifully sequenced the whole thing. Natural progression. It was exactly the level I was at at that stage. It felt like a major and I was starting to push for those majors and it was perfectly timed,” Harrington reflected on his 2007 Irish Open win where he beat Bradley Dredge of Wales.

Harrington will be officially inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Monday and outside of his three major championship wins he counts the Irish Open and World Cup of Golf – which he won alongside Paul McGinley in 1997 -as two of his most prized possessions.

“Yeah, 100% I would add the Irish Open as right up there. I’d be devastated with my career if I didn’t have an Irish Open in there. But the Irish Open fits in lovely. And winning the European Order a Merit was obviously a big deal at the time. I couldn’t have drawn up my graph better for how I kept moving along. It was kind of textbook when you look at it but you’re right, the Irish Open was definitely up there with the World Cup.

“The Irish Open was a really big deal but the World Cup, I think took both myself and Paul by surprise in the sense of how well it was taken back home. It was big news. And the fact you share it with somebody makes all the difference. And it was so big for us at the time.

“And it was $200,000. Wow, it was colossal. Colossal. As McGinley always said, I built the room in his house. He got an extra room in the house because of the winnings. He said I could always come and stay there. I suppose to have a team element, I go back to that a lot. But the Irish open, thanks for bringing it up, it’s right there with it.”

Harrington’s major successes kick-started a golden era in Irish golf with Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell notching major victories in quick succession.

There have been major disappointments also for the three-time major champion who counts 40 runner-up finishes on his CV.

The 2006 US Open still irks him, the 2002 Open was an opportunity that slipped by, the 2009 US PGA Championship could have been his second defence of a major title in successive years and the 2012 US Open was another that might have been.

Perhaps what will be a blot on Harrington’s record from those outside of Ireland is leading Europe to a record loss to the USA at the 2021 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.

Delayed by one year due to COVID, Europe went from having several in form players to arriving in Wisconsin a dishevelled, old team of veterans who were bulldozed by Steve Stricker’s youthful Americans.

Still, every sporting career has its highs and lows and Harrington has no regrets when he looks back.

“No regrets. No. Everything made me who I am. It’s strange Whistling Straits. It’s really tough to lose. You go out there as a captain and you lose and it was tough. We can talk about the circumstances, COVID and the change the makeup of both teams over the year was incredible.

“The US seemed to be very weak the year previous and they were incredibly strong and deserved winners. No problem. I can come up with excuses in that. But it is interesting and time mellows. And I’m proud to be a Ryder Cup Captain, I’m proud that my team had a great week that week in everything we did. Everybody loved the week and was very appreciative of everything except for losing, which is what you’re going to be judged on.

“But time heals. You can only do what you can at the time. I don’t feel like we left any stone unturned for that. As regards my own personal career, I certainly never regretted finishing second all the way through, but 40 seconds is a lot and certainly, if I started again and put myself in the same position, I don’t think I’d finished second 40 times. I think I would know better now.

“But that doesn’t mean I’d want to change because everything led to me winning those majors, everything led to me getting to that point. It was all a progression. So I wouldn’t change things. As regards wants to cut away. You know, three pars to win the US Open and hit three great tee shots and playing great. That was a tough one in 2006.

“I don’t regret missing the playoff when I bogeyed the last in 2002. I don’t regret that at Muirfield for The Open because I didn’t really know what was going on. I was trying to make birdie thinking of getting into a playoff. I had a decent chance in the YE Yang one in 2009 in Hazeltine and a decent chance at Olympic Club in 2012 (US Open).

“There’s been a few like that. No, I’ve no regrets in that sense. Everything that I did right or wrong led to me becoming who I am in golf. Certainly would do things different, but it’s not a not a regret.”

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