Padraig Harrington had a hot tip for his fans after landing two more end-of-season awards - “Get your money on me for the US Open.”
He’s the hot favourite to grab his EIGHTH award of the year and see off Woods again by becoming the first European to be named PGA Tour Player of the Year today (Tues).
But while his next task is to complete the third leg of the "Paddy Slam" at the Masters in April, he reckons he’ll have an easier time winning June's US Open on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park in New York.
Harrington explained: “Next year there is going to be even more attention on me at the Masters and with the ‘Paddy Slam’. But to go into any tournament and win on demand is very special, let alone at a major.
“The fact is that at three of the four Majors next year I am going to have that extra pressure or focus on me. At the Masters I will be going for three Major wins in a row after winning the last two; at the Open I will defending and trying to make it three Opens in a row and at the US PGA I will be defending.
“So if I was a betting man I would put my money on the US Open. That's the one that will be the easiest in terms of focus.”
Managing the expectations of his fans and critics will be Harrington's biggest challenge this season. But he believes he will be better able to handle things after discovering that he tried too hard to perform in the first half of the year after breaking his Major duck in 2007.
He said: “Expectations for next year are going to be higher than ever and that is something I have to manage. In the past I never believed the expectations people had for me and my way of managing that was to underplay them.
“Yet when you become a major champion you put yourself under pressure to play to a higher standard. It was something I struggled with in the first half of the year. Knowing you are doing it is one thing, avoiding it is another.
“My problem is that I can end up being too committed and working too hard, which led to the injury before the Open. But you cannot control everything. You need to find the routine that works for you but know when you have done everything you can. After that you have to go with the flow.
“You cannot judge yourself by results in the short term. What if someone else has the week of their life? As long as I stick to the same processes and keep getting myself into contention I am happy to see how it works out.”
Harrington joined Tony Jacklin and Peter Oosterhuis as the only players to win the Golf Writers’ Trophy two years in a row while he was just the second European to win the American scribes’ award following Nick Faldo’s double major winning season of 1990.
Jacklin won the Open in ’69 and the US Open the following year while Oosterhuis claimed his fourth European Order of Merit on the trot in 1974.
Harrington has now won seven end-of-season gongs and is the first player since Colin Montgomerie in 1996 to complete the triple crown of Golf Writers’ Trophy, European Tour Player of the Year and Shot of the Year awards.
Taking it all in, he said: “It just shows how rare it is to peak two years running. To have one great year and win a major is fantastic but to follow it up by winning another two majors this year was beyond anything you could have hoped for.
“What is so satisfying is that in years to come people will look at the trophy and ask, ‘What did he do to win it twice in succession?’ and remember your achievements, just as you look at Tony Jacklin’s name twice and recall his majors or Peter Oosterhuis and his Order of Merit wins.
“There will be a time I can sit back and enjoy it all but this is not that time. I have really appreciated all the accolades that I have received, especially at this time of year, but I am already back in work mode. I am back in the gym and I had my coach over last week so I am working hard again.”
Winning Majors is top of his list of goals for 2009 but he knows that elements that are outside his control could play a massive part.
He said: “In each of my three major wins something happened that I could not have bargained for.
“At Carnoustie it was my son running onto the green on the 72nd hole and taking my mind off what had just happened. At Birkdale it was the wrist injury taking the stress out of defending my title, while at the USPGA I got dehydrated but the rain delay on the Saturday gave me a chance to recover.
The Golf Writers’ Trophy was first awarded in 1951 and honours the individual, born or resident in Europe, or team deemed to have made the most outstanding contribution to golf each year.
Harrington took over 90 per cent of first-place votes, with Karlsson, the first Swede to win the European order of merit, in second place and Sorenstam, in her last season of full-time competition, in third place.
Harrington's 2008 gong-fest
PGA of America Player of the Year
Irish Golfer Writers' Association Professional of the Year
European Tour Golfer of the Year
European Tour Shot of the Year
Renault Sports Celebrity of the Year
Association of Golf Writers' Trophy
Golf Writers Association of America Player of the Year.