Harrington confident he can solve Augusta jigsaw

Padraig Harrington believes he’s got a better chance of winning the Masters than ever. Picture Eoin Clarke/www.golffile.ie)Padraig Harrington hopes Phil Mickelson will be helping him into the green jacket when he lies in bed next Saturday night.

Ok, the real ceremony doesn’t happen until Sunday evening but Harrington knows that if he’s visualising himself as Ireland’s first Masters champion on the eve of the final round, he’ll be perfectly placed to achieve his dream win.

Winning a major is all about getting in position with nine holes to go and Harrington reckons he’s in a better place now than he was two years ago, when he went to Augusta seeking the third leg of the “Paddy Slam” following his back to back wins in the Open and the US PGA in 2008.

Believing he’s more ready than ever to become Masters champion, Harrington insisted: “I would be far more confident now than I was in 2009. I am far more in control of my game.

“If I hit a bad shot, I know physically why I hit a bad shot and I know mentally why I made that physical move.  It is not that I don’t hit bad shots or won’t hit many of them going forward, but there is a certain peace of mind to understanding it. So I am a better player now that I was when I won the three majors.”

Nothing scares the living daylights out of Harrington more than Augusta National.

But he works on the theory that if he is feeling intimidated, nearly everyone else is having waking nightmares.

And with three major trophies sitting on the kitchen counter at home, he’s gambling that he’ll have the edge with nine holes to play, especially if there are a few first timers in the mix.

Confident that he’d have the guts to grab his chance, Harrington said: “The fact that I have gone and won majors means I would relish the opportunity of being in that position on Sunday afternoon.

“If I can get into contention with nine holes to go, I will look forward to that. It depends on who you are coming up against but in many instances, I will have the edge.

“The fact that I have done it and proved it in the past, and done it in different ways will mean that I will feel, not comfortable, but certainly aware of the feelings coming down the stretch.

“The big thing is getting myself in position, there is no doubt. But it is easier coming down the stretch in a major than maybe in a regular event. So that’s where I have got to get.

“If I can produce the control and consistency for three and a half rounds so I am in position, we all know that anything can happen over those nine holes.

“With experience and having done it in many varied ways, I can understand that there are many ways to win a tournament.”

The hard part is getting through the first 63 holes playing well and avoiding a major disaster, something Harrington has done just twice (at a stretch) in 10 previous appearances.

And this is why he certainly won’t be letting his guard down on a course he describes as “probably the most intimidating tournament course we play.”

He said: “There are very few shots on that golf course where you aren’t under quite a lot of pressure, especially on the back nine on Sunday.

“The greens are fast and slippery on a Sunday. It really is tough. The chips are off tight lies, against the grain. You just have to be perfect.

“All your irons shots are over water with swirling winds so it really is an intimidating golf course so that should help me. I am sure everybody else finds it intimidating as well.

“The easier the golf course, the more chance other people have. I prefer the conditions I find at Augusta, where you have to be well on top of your emotions and in control coming down the stretch.

“The whole course is tough but the back nine on a Sunday is an extreme test.”

It’s a test Harrington wants to experience for the first time with three majors already in the bag. Getting out of his own way for the first three and a half days is the problem.