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Win in Asia revives Padraig Harrington's dream of Major glory

By Karl MacGinty

It's just over six years but it feels like a lifetime ago. Half an hour after those 'scary eyes' had melted Sergio Garcia down the stretch at Oakland Hills, they were dancing merrily in Padraig Harrington's head. It was August 2008. He had the Wanamaker Trophy in his hands and a third Major title to his name in 13 months

Harrington was almost bursting with delight as he met a couple of fellow Irishmen on the verandah outside the media centre: ranked third in the world; Tiger's greatest rival; capable of winning Majors.

Harrington had cracked golf's Da Vinci Code. He knew he didn't have to play like God to achieve the Holy Grail. He had graduated into that exclusive band of players who turn up at Majors knowing they can win.

Given that advantage over all but a tiny minority of his rivals, it was almost a statistical certainty that more Major titles would follow. It really has been a long, long way from there to here.

Harrington still has 'The Knowledge' but has not given himself the opportunity to use it.

In 22 Majors he has played since Oakland Hills, he managed two top-10 finishes, at the 2012 Masters and US Open, against 10 missed cuts.

A player who used to view his performance in the Grand Slam arena as the true measure of his game these days struggles to get into the season's first two Majors.

He sat out the Masters and US Open last year and needs a win on the US PGA Tour or at least a couple in Europe in the New Year to qualify for Augusta in April.

Harrington's victory on Sunday at the Asian Tour's Indonesian Open, his first win in any Tour event for 50 months, offered 14 world points. Still, they propelled him 125 rungs up the world ladder to 260th.

He punched the air with such vigour in his moment of triumph in Jakarta because this win ranks among the most significant of the 29 in his career.

It has been astonishing in recent years to note Harrington's stoic acceptance of frustration and humiliation after his confidence completely abandoned him.

Not once has he thrown club or tantrum, nor let slip a cuss beyond the occasional exasperated 'Gee-whizz' under media interrogation. No whinging, whining or moaning, every setback invariably greeted with a smile, albeit sometimes forced. It's greatness of a different sort.

At 43, he's in good enough shape physically and, after last weekend, may soon be ready mentally to put 'The Knowledge' to use once again at Majors (just look at Ulsterman Darren Clarke's success at the 2012 Open at Sandwich).

So watch out for him at Hazeltine next August, if the wind doesn't howl at St Andrews.

Win or lose, he's been an inspiration to all who play the game.

In Rudyard Kipling's words, Harrington treats 'those two impostors, triumph and disaster', (almost) the same.

Now maybe he even can become 'The Man' once again at the Majors.

Belfast Telegraph


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