|Feb 13||Clune Construction Signs PGA Golfer Padraig Harrington as Official Ambassador||More >|
|May 12||Padraig to "Wear the Laces" for Special Olympics at the The Players Championship||More >|
|May 12||Local School Children Meet Golfing Hero Padraig Harrington||More >|
|Mar 12||Brands support Padraig Harrington Charitable Foundation Initiative||More >|
|Jul 11||Harrington goes for Irish Open title wearing the laces for Special Olympics||More >|
|Jul 11||The HSBC Ultimate Open 18||More >|
|Jun 11||Padraig Open 'Sarazen' Bunker at Prince's||More >|
|May 10||Padraig Harrington Unveiled as Ireland's Golf Ambassador||More >|
|May 10||Harrington's Appointment As Global Ambassador is Special||More >|
|May 10||Golfer Padraig Harrington Joins Special Olympics||More >|
|Mar 10||Get The Most From Your Gear||More >|
|Nov 09||Harrington finds time for others even in worst moment||More >|
|Sep 09||Padraig to headline Portugal Masters||More >|
|Jul 09||Cannon inspired by Harrington Golf||More >|
|Jul 09||Padraig embraces fame, strives to improve||More >|
|Jul 09||Work, Rest and Play||More >|
|Apr 09||R&A hail champion Harrington||More >|
|Apr 09||Padraig - Pre Masters interview||More >|
|Mar 09||Stackstown open 'Harrington Room'||More >|
|Feb 09||Interview before the 2009 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am||More >|
|Feb 09||Interview before the 2009 Buick Invitational||More >|
|Feb 09||He won me the Open at Carnoustie||More >|
|Jan 09||Harrington - King of the Mountain||More >|
|Jan 09||Ronan Flood Q&A||More >|
|Jan 09||Another award for Padraig||More >|
|Dec 08||Padraig Harrington - a Celebration||More >|
|Dec 08||Padraig wins Sportsperson of the Year||More >|
|Dec 08||PGA Tour - Player of the Year 2008||More >|
|Dec 08||Padraig retains Golf writers' honour||More >|
|Dec 08||Padraig - More to Come||More >|
|Dec 08||Padraig named European Golfer of the Year||More >|
|Dec 08||Padraig wins European Tour Shot of the Year||More >|
|Nov 08||My Sportsman: Padraig Harrington||More >|
|Nov 08||The trials of Padraig Harrington, Mr Perfection||More >|
|Oct 08||2008 PGA of America Player of the Year||More >|
|Oct 08||Man of the moment is never short of a Bob||More >|
|Sep 08||Padraig wins Shot of the Month Aug 08||More >|
|Sep 08||That's one, two, three.||More >|
|Sep 08||A legend in the making||More >|
|Sep 08||Do I think I can improve as a player ?||More >|
|Sep 08||Double the Champion||More >|
|Aug 08||Padraig wins Shot of the Month July 08||More >|
|Aug 08||The Champ's Press Conference||More >|
|Aug 08||'I didn't want to give the Jug back!'||More >|
|Jul 08||How to win the Open||More >|
Article by Paul Kimmage, The Sunday Times - Nov 9, 2008
Padraig Harrington doesn’t drink or swear but has finally found his golfing mean streak
When interviewing Padraig Harrington, you are quickly reminded that he did not get where he is today by being mistaken for Russell Brand. As a kid, no dog ever ate his homework. He doesn’t smoke or swear. He met Caroline, his first girlfriend, in 1989 and still tells her he loves her at least four times a day. There are no skeletons in his cupboard. He still says gee whiz.
This is a man who commissioned seven journalists to write a book (proceeds to charity) last year on his Journey To The Open at Carnoustie. Why? Because there are seven golf writers in Ireland and he didn’t want to show favouritism or let anybody down. And that promise he made to his son about putting ladybirds in the Claret Jug? Well, he would never break his promises, but was mindful to “let them go before they died”.
Padraig has won three major championships. Padraig is the greatest sports star Ireland has ever produced. But more, much more, is the acclaim for his decency, loyalty and honesty. He is golf’s Mister Perfect, a great ambassador for the game and a role model for kids.
But is that a blessing or a curse?
WE ARE on a flight to Malaga, drinking tea and shooting the breeze about another sporting icon, acclaimed for his courage and inspirational deeds.
“Have you ever interviewed him?” Harrington asks.
“No,” I reply. “I like to give everyone a blank sheet of paper, but I couldn’t do it with him . . . probably the most cynical, hypocritical bastard in the history of sport.”
“Really?” he says, shifting nervously.
“Have you read that stuff in his book about what a devoted husband and father he is? Well, he’d get up on your mother.”
“He f**** everything that "
“SHUUUSSSSSSSSSH!” Harrington freaks, frantically looking around in case somebody has heard. I’m laughing, but he is absolutely serious.
“What’s it like being Padraig Harrington?” I ask. “What’s it like being Mr Perfect?”
“I’m not in any way shocked at you saying that,” he replies.
“No. I don’t want to be a goody two-shoes. I’d like the image of being strong but fair, tough but compassionate. Nobody wants to be perfect, do they? I’d love to be more arrogant. I’d love to have a bigger ego. I’d be a better golfer if I walked on to the first tee and puffed out my chest. The ultimate, for me, is to have ego and arrogance but to keep it internal; to never show it and project humility. But is it possible to be a nice guy and win?”
“You’re doing a pretty good job at the moment,” I
“I’m trying to find the balance. Sometimes I wonder if I’m too soft and too worried about how I look. I have never walked by somebody and not given them an autograph. I have never in my life brushed somebody off that I haven’t felt a pang of anxiety about. Sometimes I do things that aren’t serving my golf correctly. I’m worried about what that one guy I walked past is going to say to his friends.”
“You don’t drink,” I note. “I do now, but not very often . . . half a dozen times a year when I win - that’s it.”
“You don’t swear?” “It’s not that I don’t curse. I would avoid it; I’m not happy when I see somebody on television cursing, especially on a golf course. I would think it a lack of discipline.”
“And you don’t like journalists who curse. You tell them to shush?”
“Yeah, that’s one of my worst traits, actually . . . well, not one of my worst traits, but it’s one of the hardest things about fame. I can control what I do, but I can’t control people around me. If I’m in a restaurant and someone expresses a political opinion or tells a joke too loud, the story will go back that Harrington’s table were talking about such-and-such, and I struggle to relax.”
“That must be unbearable.”
“Well, you’ve just seen it now,” he points out. “I mean, if those people in front or behind were listening, they’d say, ‘Harrington was in a foul-mouthed conversation’. And if that got back to my mother . . .”
“But you can’t keep living your life like that. It will drive you insane.”
“Yeah, well, that’s an area I worry about,” he concedes, “but what you do is, you control who you are with, your environment. If I am going to relax, it has to be in a controlled environment, then I am happy. That’s why I say to people sometimes, ‘You wouldn’t want to do what I do’.”
“And you do?” I ask. “You want to live your life like that?”
“It’s not that I want it, I accept it . . . A few years ago the rumours went out that I was an alcoholic with gambling debts and was having affairs. They said that after I won the Barclays Classic I was so drunk I couldn’t get on the plane. These stories went back to my mum. I had to laugh about that. But I had journalists asking if it was true!”
“But nothing was written. You’ve never got bad press.”
“There was an article a few years ago that was absolutely scurrilous. It was one of the worst pieces of . . . I’ll give an example: one of the comments was that I had badgered a referee into letting me change my ball on the green, when what actually happened was . . .”
“Oh, come on, Padraig,” I interrupt, laughing. “What are we talking about? The suggestion that you might have infringed a rule! It’s not as if you were exposed getting whipped by six prostitutes in the News of the World! Now that’s bad press.”
He smiles. “Yeah, I suppose.” “Don’t you find it a strain having to be permanently in control?” I ask.
“It obviously has to be, but it’s not a burden . . . I’ll tell you a story about my childhood. As a kid, I was very close to my next-oldest brother, Fergal. We did everything together, typical brothers. Anyway, we are sitting at dinner one night and he’s punching me and kicking me under the table. Mum has told him to stop, I’ve told him to stop, but he won’t, so I pick up a nice floury potato and throw it as hard as I can at his head. You cannot believe how it splattered. We were picking up bits of potato for six weeks.
“But before he knew I had hit him, I was locked in the only room that locked in our house - the bathroom up the stairs. I ran. I was gone. I knew the consequences. So I’m locked in and will not come out. My father came home an hour later and my mother tells him what happened. Dad says, ‘Well, if Padraig did that, he must have been provoked’. That was it. There was no retribution.”
“Interesting, but what does that have to do with control?”
“It’s probably the only time in my life I’ve lost my head. And if my dad could say, ‘He must have been provoked . . .’ ” “It showed what you were like?” I suggest.
“Yeah.” “So control is your natural state?”
“Yeah. I’ve never thrown a golf club, never smashed the ground; would avoid cursing . . . a lot of it was my dad’s influence. I got his temperament.” WAY down south in County Cork, mention Paddy Harrington and it is the father they recall, not the son. His father was a policeman but made his name as a Gaelic footballer who played in two All-Ireland finals, losing both. Yes, Paddy had all the gifts, but there was something about that temperament, something ill suited to the cut and thrust of football or life as a policeman. “My dad had no regrets about losing two All-Ireland finals,” Harrington says, “but he did regret joining the guards [police]. He would have loved to be a coach, but there wasn’t an opportunity for that. He played football and the guards was a great job for footballers, but he was the worst guard of all time! I’d say he hardly arrested a person in his life!”
Harrington tells a story about a trophy buried under the stairs of his childhood home that sums his father up. “I’ve no idea where his All-Ireland medals are, but I know his boxing trophy is there. He boxed in the guards and won the national title. The guy he beat in the finals was badly outclassed but just wouldn’t go down. My dad hit him and hit him and hit him. The guy was determined not to fall. Dad won comfortably on points, but felt so bad about the beating he gave him, he never boxed again. That’s the only trophy of his at home that I want some day.”
Home was a modest semi-detached in south Dublin where Paddy had settled with his wife, Breda, raised five sons and discovered golf. He helped to build a new club at Stackstown, where all of his boys played. Padraig, the youngest, was the most talented. In Journey To The Open, Harrington recalls a bad day in 1994 when he coughed up a certain victory over the last two holes. “I was 22 years old,” he writes, “and the only reason I wasn’t crying was because I was so annoyed. As I stood by the car, my dad didn’t so much try to console me as listen to my anger and angst. When he eventually said something, it was a simple message, the only thing that made sense in any situation. I can still hear him saying it. ‘There will be better days, son, there will be better days’.”
Padraig couldn’t see it. He wondered about his dad and those two lost football finals and worried that he was the same. Because he was the same, the spit of his dad, Paddy’s boy, everybody said it.
But was that a blessing or a curse?
He turned professional and within six months had won his first tournament, but it was the second-place finishes (almost 30!) that seemed to make most news. He kept grinding away and was just starting to believe he might win a major when his father succumbed to cancer in July 2005. Harrington was devastated. “The first thing I did every time I came off the course was ring my dad and tell him shot for shot how I had played. That was the thing I missed most when he passed away.
Because I was a successful golfer, it seemed that I was expected to successfully explain my emotions and how I felt about my father. It’s the only time I ever wanted to say, ‘Just leave me alone’. I struggled with the concept of trying to explain something that I felt was very private. I didn’t mind being on the golf course, because there you are not thinking about it, but it was hard sitting at home, the toughest thing I’ve had to deal with outside of golf.”
“What about your own mortality and immortality now?”
“Like everybody else I would worry about that day and about getting older and that things are changing,” he says. “As regards immortality, I don’t believe it lasts. There will be an Irish kid who will come along and do better than me. And there is going to be some kid out there who will be better than Tiger Woods.”
“But that’s still your name on the Claret Jug,” I insist. “Doesn’t it mean anything that your name is there with the greatest golfers of all time? Have you looked at the other names?”
“I have looked at the names. I still think they are different to me. I don’t put myself up there. I find it hard to . . . I’ve won more majors than Norman, Olazabal, Lyle, Woosie, Langer! These are people I put on a pedestal as a kid. How could you compare yourself to Langer, Woosie, Norman - all these guys who were winning in the Eighties? That’s a hard one to get to grips with. What’s even harder is: where do I go from here? I am two majors away from equalling Seve - that’s ridiculous! I’m three majors away from tying Faldo as the most successful European golfer ever - that’s ridiculous!”
“Was there a moment after winning at Carnoustie that you found yourself at home with the Claret Jug in your lap thinking about what you had done? A private moment just for you?”
“Yeah, one of the best was standing in the shower that night. It must have been 11 o’clock. It was the first moment I had had to myself. I put my hand out [on the tiles] and thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ve won The Open!’ It was the first moment it went through me. I’ll give you another one: I’m at home and stuck in a traffic jam and daydreaming about The Open. Everybody else is pulling their hair out, but I’m sitting there with a grin on my face. ‘This is fantastic. Take all the time you want’. Anyone looking at me would have thought, ‘What’s this guy on?’”
“What happens a year later when you do it again?”
“The three [major] wins have been different,” he explains. “I played really well at Carnoustie but I faltered coming down the last. There were no doubts at Birkdale. I played better than everybody else, so that was particularly satisfying. I probably needed to prove myself at Birkdale, then it was a case of ‘I can win a major any way I like now. I have no qualms about winning ugly’. And the PGA win was as ugly as it could be.”
“Which gave you the most satisfaction?”
“Oh, the PGA, by a long way,” he says. “There is nothing like the excitement of performing when you don’t feel good, and I felt terrible about my game. I had a good round on Saturday, and on Sunday I am in there, but still struggling, and the excitement of being able to overcome that and hole a putt on the last green to win was just phenomenal.”
“Something obviously changed,” I say. “I keep thinking of what was going through your dad’s mind as he was punching that poor guy in the boxing ring. The discomfort he obviously felt. But you didn’t feel uneasy, did you? You smelt blood and went for the jugular.”
“Yeah, I always wondered if I was like my dad . . . all those second places. It was a thing I always worried I didn’t have.”
“Killer instinct,” I surmise. “Yeah, that’s what worried me about Birkdale; I looked at Greg and everybody was sympathetic to his story. It was going to be ‘The great swan song of Greg Norman’. And it would have been great, but not when I was there. I’d spent a strong part of my last 20 years trying to find that killer instinct. I’d got better. I’d moved on.”
“So you woke up on the last day and thought, ‘This is not going to be about Greg Norman?’”
“Exactly. They were all writing that story, but I wasn’t going to be drawn into it and for 71½ holes I gave him no quarter whatsoever until we walked down 18 and he congratulated me. I said, ‘Greg, I’d love if this was your week, but I couldn’t get caught up in that’. And I genuinely meant that. He was brilliant to play with.”
THERE’S a difference betweena happy ending and a perfect ending. A perfect ending would have seen Paddy, standing by the 18th green at Oakland Hills, watching his son win his third major. A happy ending is knowing it didn’t really matter. “I don’t regret that he hasn’t seen me win three majors,” Harrington says. “The greatest part of my relationship with my dad was that I never had to do anything in golfing terms to make him proud of me. The things that made him proud were not throwing a club, not losing your temper, and to keep trying. He never lived his life through me and I’ve never felt under any pressure to fulfil his dreams.”
When Paddy Harrington died, nothing that related to his life in sport was mentioned at the funeral. “It was how he wanted it,” Harrington says, his eyes welling with tears. “He wrote out all of the instructions. The biggest thing he ever taught me was when he died. He was very religious and part of that religion was his blind faith when he died.”
“That he was going to a better place?” I ask.
“No, that he was comfortable with it; that this was the natural progression. He died a slow death, six months, and if you are going to die a slow death, you had better have faith. He had faith. I can’t remember a day when he didn’t go to Mass, but he was paid back. He put so much effort into his religion and the payback was how comfortable he was. That was the lesson; there is a payback for effort.”
It was his father’s final gift. His blessing.
Harrington attended the same Dublin school as his Ryder Cup and World Cup teammate Paul McGinley .
After leaving school, he passed his exams for the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants in 1994, as an alternative profession if his golf career failed.
He turned pro in 1995, having been part of the Walker Cup team that defeated the US, including Tiger Woods, that year .
He is a distant cousin of former world poker champion Dan Harrington and of Joey Harrington, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, right He has twice won the par-three contest, in 2003 and 2004, held on the eve of every US Masters .
Harrington has known wife Caroline, whom he married in 1997, since childhood.
His caddie, Ronan Flood, is married to her sister Susie.
In 2000, he was disqualified before the final round of the Benson & Hedges International after failing to sign his first round scorecard. He was leading the field by five strokes.
Apart from Tiger Woods, he is the first golfer to win three of six consecutive major championships since Tom Watson in 1983.