Harrington: "I see other peaks ahead"

Padraig Harrington is not saying the best is yet to come. But he does see more peaks ahead. Padraig Harrington might be 41 but he’s not thinking about his age but racking up more majors before puts away his clubs for good.

The Dubliner is in Bermuda for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf and bidding to make it third time lucky as he stands in for the injured Ernie Els in an event he lost in play-offs to Angel Cabrera and Jim Furyk  at Mid Ocean Golf Club in 2007 and 2008.

Speaking to the PGA of America before this week’s clash with Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley and Port Royal Golf Course, Harrington said he is not especially inspired by major wins by 40-somethings Els or Darren Clarke in the last two years.

He sees more majors in his future and and hopes to hit the heights more than once.

“If they didn’t win I wouldn’t be any less confident,” Harrington said. “Yes, I can take something from them winning. I am on tour now 16 years. I hit the golf ball much further than I did when I started out. I hit it better. I am physically stronger and a more powerful player than I was when I started out.

“I am getting better, no question about it. I don’t see myself in any shape or form on the slippery slope of retirement. I still see the best…. well…. I still see other peaks ahead. Obviously the best years, I’ve won three majors, there are more majors ahead in my career. That certainly was a peak back in 2007 and 2008 and I foresee maybe two more of those.”

Els’ withdrawal caused a minor scramble by the PGA of America to change the signage on the island but when Harrington turned up, he was not surprised to see his face plastered on billboards and in the official programme.

Padraig Harrington plays a little cricket in Bermuda. Is that Brian Lara in the background? And is Harrington about to be bowled or stumped? Correct batting technique could lead to a slice so it’s probanly better that Harrington stuck to his golf swing. Picture courtesy PGA of America/Montana Pritchard“I would expect nothing else from the PGA, and that’s to be honest,” Harrington said. “They are a professional-run organization and they are on top of these type of things.

“They didn’t surpass expectations, they lived up to expectations. They don’t get a pat on the back for that.”

Harrington was preparing to head out to China for the BMW Masters on Sunday but got advance warning about Els’ withdrawal on Friday evening and confirmation he was playing on Saturday afternoon.

“On Friday evening, we provisionally started looking at flights, and the word came flew Saturday afternoon, late Saturday afternoon, that Ernie had pulled out.  As unfortunate as it is for Ernie and let’s hope he gets better, it was good news for me.

You know, I think it was easy to get here.  You know, Bermuda is simple to get to.  If it was Hawai’i or something like that, it wouldn’t have been so much fun trying to get there.  I think it was easy for me to get here and I didn’t feel like I was, you know, for a short trip, I didn’t feel like I was coming here and going to have a lot of jet‑lag or have a problem with jet‑lag or anything like that.

Obviously playing the Grand Slam was a great choice but it was made that much easier by the convenience of coming to Bermuda.  I left Dublin 10:45 on Sunday whereas I had intended to leave on 7:30 that evening, so it was only a slight change of plans.”

As for having unfinished business in Bermuda following his losses in 2007 and 2008, he said: “Absolutely.  I’ve come close twice in Grand Slams and hopefully it will be that close coming down the stretch this week and it would fall in my favour. That would be nice. You never can tell, but that would be the plan; to keep it the tournament as long as possible and hopefully down the stretch, do a few nice things, things turn in my favor and come out winning.”

Harrington confirmed that he will now play the UBS Hong Kong Open between the Barclays Singapore Masters and the Race to Dubai decider before taking nine weeks off.

He will return to action early in 2013 but does not know where. (Volvo Golf Champions in Durban, South Africa from January 10-13 could be favourite.)

“I will 100 percent play AT&T [Pebble Beach National Pro-Am from February 7-10] in the States, so I will play one tournament, at least, before AT&T.  AT&T, definitely I’ll be there for that.  I’m obviously defending with my Pro‑Am partner (JP McManus), the Pro‑Am version of it.  So I’m 100 percent pencilled in for that one, and everything else is not quite there yet.”

As for Port Royal, Harrington was impressed by the terrifying, cliffside par three 16th, which measures 235 yards off the back tee.
 
“Obviously I’ve been here before.  It’s a beautiful island.  You get a great welcome.  Everything seems to be half an hour away, 30 minutes.  Surprised how quick we got to the golf course today.

“Yeah, it’s a beautiful place.  The golf course, it’s a good test, some substantial holes out there.  You have to think that 16th hole has got to be one of the toughest golf holes we’ll ever play. I’d say if you had that in a regular event, there would be a slight amount of moaning.  It is an incredibly tough hole.  It’s a good golf course for this format.  There’s certainly some opportunities to make some birdies out there and there are certainly some big, tough holes that you have to play well on top of that.

“So you have kind of a mixture out there.  It’s in no way a tricky course.  I think at times, this is a full championship golf course, there’s no doubt about it, with some small targets in the crosswinds.  If it got windy out there, it could get very difficult.  

“If the greens got very firm, it could get very difficult but thankfully neither of those are forecast so I would predict that the players are going to have a good two days here.  I don’t think necessarily the golf course is going to win out this week.  If the greens stay as they are, we’ll really enjoy this course.”