Irishman says special award caps special year
After a 2008 season which brought both a successful defence of his Open title and victory in the USPGA championship, Padraig Harrington has told Sky Sports News of his desire to win more majors.
Harrington was speaking after winning the European Tour Golfer of the Year award for the second successive time - the 37-year-old Irishman ending the year ranked fourth in the world.
Speaking of his award, Harrington said: "It's very special. Obviously I've had a great year and a great two years. But when it comes to this time of the year and the season is finished then it's nice to pick up an accolade like this to remind me...of what a special year it was."
It was an unprecedented summer of success for Harrington, peaking in July when he overcame a wrist injury and tamed wild weather at Birkdale to retain the claret jug, before taking the USPGA at Oakland Hills just three weeks later.
Such returns on the biggest stage of all came after Harrington years spent forging a career which, while successful, also created an impression that, in terms of major successes, might leave him forever the bridesmaid.
"That was certainly an image I had," Harrington said. "I think it was more to do with the fact I seemed to get in contention an awful lot of times. I won enough tournaments...and lost some of them.
"But during those years I did gain the experience that's helped win those majors. I've probably in the last two years focused strongly on the majors and tried to really peak for those events.
"I've a good understanding of my game and a good understanding of me and read the situations very well and it's paid off with majors. And to have won three of the last six - it's a bonus. It's certainly ahead of expectations.
"I feel strong going forward, I definitely feel that I can go on and win more majors. I don't necessarily think I'll win three of the next six but I feel like I can go and win majors in the future."
Harrington claimed that retaining his Open title actually seemed a hindrance heading into the USPGA, in that he - initially at least - found it difficult to concentrate his efforts having performed so well on the Lancashire coast.
"It was definitely a hindrance going into the PGA," he said. "The one thing about winning the Open...it was very satisfying, I felt very in control. I played really well, I hit the ball well. I kind of won it the way you'd dream of winning the event...it was close to perfection.
"There was no question going into the PGA, it was a big hindrance in the sense that it was such a big high - it was hard to come back and get yourself focused and get yourself ready. Certainly the first couple of rounds I came up short.
"I was playing well but mentally I was fatigued and I got dehydrated, some pretty amateurish mistakes and I seemed to be well out of the tournament.
"But the interesting thing was that when I did get in contention coming down the back nine on the Sunday, it was a big plus that I'd won the previous major and won two majors because I felt really good in that situation.
"I felt familiar and comfortable in it and once I turned for home I couldn't have been more excited or couldn't have enjoyed it more."
And, following European Tour chief executive George O'Grady's claim that Harrington was the greatest sportsman in Ireland's history, the man himself said he'd rather leave such debates until the end of his career.
"I think that when people start talking about things like that you should be retired, you should be looking back at your career and hopefully in 20 years time I will sit down and look back and savour all the things I've done," he added.
"But I'm very much playing for the moment, I'm concentratring on what I'm doing and focusing on getting better each year. There is a finality to that kind of comment. It does feel that if you were to get involved in it then it's the end of the line.
"But I'm very keen to try and look forward and very keen to try and win more majors."
by Sky Sports Golf