Money might be the barometer of success in the modern game but Padraig Harrington will be focussing on the history books rather than the size of his bank balance when he tees it up in the 21st and final edition of the Volvo Masters at Valderrama tomorrow.
Trailing leader Robert Karlsson by €297,425 in the race for the Harry Vardon Trophy with Lee Westwood and Miguel Angel Jimenez still in the running, Harrington wants to mark the end of an era on the European Tour by winning the season-ending finale amongst the cork oaks.
But as the Order of Merit and the Volvo Masters are replaced by the $10 million Race to Dubai, Harrington expressed his hope that the European Tour may yet find a way of honouring Seve Ballesteros’ contribution to making the tour what it is today.
Next week’s HSBC Champions tournament in Shangai will herald the start of the 2009 season and the unveiling of a new European Tour branding that features the silhouette of six-time Open champion Harry Vardon, who is widely regarded as the first touring professional.
Yet Harrington ventured that the image of Seve, who is fighting for his life in a Madrid hospital following three operations on a malignant brain tumour, might be more fitting icon for the European Tour than player who won his last Open Championship in 1914.
“Is it Harry Vardon we have on our Tour thing,” Harrington asked. “Why isn't Seve? He is the man when you think about it. He is The European Tour, and it's only at times like this that you kind of say, well, we wish we had more of Seve.
“I know players love to idolise him as we all did when we were growing up. It's when you feel like you are losing something that you wish you had made more of that time with Seve.
“I wouldn't say there's a player on The European Tour at this stage, who didn't grow up watching Seve. I know Seve is only 51, but at the end of the day, I think you couldn't find a player out here who wasn't a kid when Seve was playing golf.
“We all personally feel for Seve and what he's going through at the moment, and we all hope that he does have a speedy recovery and a recovery. I think is a shame that over the last number of years, Seve has not been leading out The European Tour as an ambassador.
“It's only times like this when you feel like you could be losing somebody like Seve that, you know, he's going to be missed. I think he is what The European Tour was. He brought it to the forefront in the 80s, he is what every player is playing the game now in Europe, he is the man who they looked up to and aspired to be.”
Harrington won the Volvo Masters at Montecastillo in 2001 and while he needs to finish first or second in the 57-strong field this week to have any chance of overhauling Order of Merit leader Karlsson, he knows he will have to be patient on a track where he has always struggled.
With three Majors on the mantelpiece and almost €30 million in tournament earnings over the last 13 seasons, Harrington is only interested in improving his CV these days. Reputed to have turned down a $10 million a year to sign for Nike and $8 million to endorse Callaway, he said: “Thankfully, and in the day and age that it is at this moment, I'm in the great position that I am very much focused on titles.
“Titles first, with majors being right on top of that, followed by the World Rankings. Those are the things that you get focused on. Thankfully throughout my career, I've been motivated by going out there and winning and financial stuff follows. That’s definitely the best way to go about it.”
Having won the Order of Merit and the Harry Vardon Trophy by finishing as runner up at Valderrama in 2006, Harrington admitted that he will not be gutted if he comes up short this year.
“I'm not even leading the Order of Merit so it would not bother me greatly at this very moment in time if I didn’t win it,” he said. “But I would like to win the Order of Merit. There's a number of players who played very well this year and it would be nice to come out on top.
“I think Robert has played excellent. I think Lee Westwood has really come back into form. It's a good year to win the Order of Merit. Certainly whoever wins this on Sunday has really earned it this year.
“Robert is a fine player and if he wins on Sunday, he thoroughly deserves it. I think he has played superb golf this year and very consistent.
“If you beat him this week, as I said, I'll know I've done a good job. He probably deserves it, but that doesn't mean he gets it. We have to wait until Sunday to sort that out.”
Ireland will have a record seven competitors in action this week with Harrington joined by Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell, Paul McGinley, Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane and Rory McIlroy.