ST ANDREWS, Scotland – Padraig Harrington’s greedy, but he’s trying to curb his appetite – just a little.
The Irishman is hoping a slightly leaner approach to the game will deliver him his fourth major championship.
Harrington might be one of the most affable players in the game, but that nice-guy exterior masks the inner drive of a champion. That drive delivered him back-to-back Open Championships, 2007-08, and the ’08 PGA Championship. Ironically, it might also have cost him from adding to his major tally in recent years.
Tom Watson has spoken this week about not enjoying any of his eight major championship victories because once he won one, he immediately was focused on wining the next. Harrington doesn’t have that problem. He’s enjoyed each of his major victories immensely, but he knows where Watson is coming from.
“I want to go out and win more majors,” Harrington said. “If anything I’m too pushy, too hard, and trying too hard. It’s all about getting the next one.”
Harrington isn’t the first golfer to reset his goals after winning a major. Like every great player before him, his focus isn’t on run-of-the-mill tournaments anymore, but on the marquee events that define a player’s career.
“One of the biggest issues of winning majors is the fact that you focus on them,” Harrington said. “You think about them and you just want to go out and win another one. Having won the three that I have, it’s all about winning the fourth.”
That’s a vastly different attitude from the player who first came out on tour in 1996, won £1,865 in his first tournament and thought he’d hit pay dirt. “I remember ringing my mother and saying: “Mom, they’re just giving money away out here.’”
Harrington set out on the European Tour after a great amateur career that had seen him play in three Walker Cups and win just about everything there was to win in the unpaid game. His goals back then were slightly different than they are now.
“I had hoped to make it as a journeyman pro on the European Tour,” Harrington said. “That was my goal. I felt if I could get inside the top 100 then that would be an achievement.
“I set my targets at top 75-100 for my first couple of years and felt that if I could achieve that then I could perhaps boost myself up to between 50-75. That was my outlook, that maybe I could plod along and get to the next level.”
He’s plodded his way nicely to three majors and one of the best players in the world. Along with that, though, he has tinkered with his swing, and made changes trying to get to an even higher level.
“There’s a certain nature of pushing on and pushing on, and that can be a destructive force. That’s human nature.”
That’s why the Irishman is going to try to take things a little bit differently this year.
“Something I will be focusing on this week is maybe trying to take a more balanced attitude out to the golf course, relaxing, enjoying it. If I take a better attitude out there, I’ll just let it happen,” he said.
With two Open Championship wins already under his belt, and two Alfred Dunhill Links Championship victories over the Old Course, Harrington’s decision to curb his appetite might just sate his desire for another major victory.