Padraig Harrington and his caddie Ronan Flood are more than just buddies.
They’re like Rodge and Podge, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza or even Dobby the Elf and Harry Potter.
In fact, Harrington made a point of giving Flood a massive share of the credit just minutes after he had lifted the Harry Vardon Trophy as Europe’s No1 for 2006.
Dubliner Flood, 30, is no grizzled veteran of the fairways and actually left a safe job as a number cruncher in the bank to lug Harrington’s bag following the sacking of Dave McNeilly in 2004.
And in little more than two and a half years together they have notched four tournament victories, two Ryder Cup triumphs and now, the Order of Merit.
Harrington needs his close pal by his side to keep him him upbeat and distracted during his round.
But Flood has since developed into more than just a bag-toting, number spouting rah-rah appendage.
Keeping his man upbeat when things look black is now part of the job description and the ploy worked a treat at Valderrama as Harrington banished all thoughts of throwing in the towel following two early bogeys.
After pipping Paul Casey by just over €35,000 to lift the biggest prize of his career, Harrington explained: “I had a very strange week. I played 63 holes of great golf and had so many three putts and so many misses and all sort of things.
“My caddie just kept pushing me on to just keep concentrating and doing my thing and not to worry about the results, just to stay focussed on what I was doing.
“I did stay very calm, I never lost patience over those 63 holes. Then I came to the back nine and got a couple of bad breaks early on again but for some reason the last nine holes, it was vintage Harrington.
“I just willed the ball into the hole. I was just going to get it up- and-down and that was it.
“My caddie has always been very important for me. I think I’ve always wanted a caddie to chat on the golf course and keep things light.”
Harrington revealed that he made an important change around the time of the US Open at Winged Foot in June, where he blew his chances of winning his first major with three late bogeys.
After finishing fifth there, he said: “From then it was his job not just to keep things light on the golf course but also to remind me to do the things that I’ve been told to do by Bob Rotella (my psychologist).
“At the funniest times Ronan can say it’s time to just keep doing your thing and not worry about what anybody else is doing and just keep the head up and keep going.
“This is what Ronan has been reminding me of. On the first two holes I’ve made two bogeys off good irons shots. But it’s not what happens in one shot.
“It’s not about getting upset about things not going your way. It’s a long process and his job was to remind me just to keep going and keep playing.”
A prime example came at the par-17th, where Harrington splashed down in the pond but was urged by Flood to “get it up and down” and keep going.
Harrington did just that and then did it again at the 18th with a sublime lob wedge to four feet to save another vital par.
Sergio Garcia’s late bogey was the finishing touch to a magical journey for Flood and Harrington that is sure to continue in 2007 with a concerted bid of that elusive major title.
But what’s more interesting is how Harrington managed to use his friendship to blow off steam this season when the results weren’t coming.
The first five months of the year were torture for Harrington as he hit the ball well but failed to convert his good play into decent scores, never mind decent results.
Harrington explained: “When I wasn’t playing so well at the start of the year, I would come off the golf course churning up inside. I was burning up because I was shooting 72.
“I had to change that attitude and around the time of the British Masters I decided I had to get away from it and not be beating myself up if the results don’t happen and just concentrate on the process.
“I could write a book on this sports psychology . Just concentrate on the processes and if you do that then you are comfortable with yourself at the end of the day.”
Film fan Harrington compared himself to Dobby the Elf in the movie “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” - a character who punished himself whenever he broke the house-elf code of loyalty on Harry's behalf by saying he had “to iron his hands.”
Harrington beamed: “If you are comfortable with yourself, you are not going home like Dobby in Harry Potter and going home to iron my hands.
“That is what Ronan says to me every time: ‘C’mon we’ll get out the industrial iron and iron your hands if you feel that bad about yourself.’
“That’s part of it. You can’t beat yourself up with it when things are going badly and if I had had that attitude I would have never have won the Order of Merit.
“I would have never been in position that if things went right for me for the last five holes, that I would won the Order of Merit. I would have long blown myself out.
“I could have blown myself out after the first two holes where I got two terrible breaks, played two lovely iron shots the first two holes and I made two bogeys.
“So how was I feeling two over par when I had been two under par every other day after a few holes? You have to be very patient, do your thing and not feel as though you have to go home and iron your hands.”
Harrington claimed that he would still have walked away happy had he failed to win the Order of Merit for the first time.
Once he prepares well and give it his all, he knows he can do no more and no longer beats himself up.
He added: “If I get all that right I will walk off the golf course afterwards and I don’t feel stressed. I feel comfortable and if I had not won then that’s fine as I knew I had done all I could.
“The whole thing is you can’t rely on results to make it happen as the results could have easily gone against me today and I would not have felt bad if they did.”
The last quarter of the season must go down as one of the best ever for Harrington, who trailed Casey by €725,790 before winning the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews.
True, he was beaten in a play-off for the BMW International in Munich shortly before the Ryder Cup and has had three second place finishes this term.
But the big picture shows that he is learning that results don’t mean everything.
Reflecting on those near misses, he explained: “It would have been very easy to have lost patience but I could walk away from Munich saying I approached everything the way I wanted to, just as I did at the Dunhill when I ended up winning and I did this week though I finished up second.
“I hit all the shots how I wanted to hit them this week and never once lost my patience and I was in the right frame of mind and though it went against me at the BMW but I had to walk away with a smile on my face and today I am going to walk away with the same smile of my face.
“I am not going to make myself more confident based on results. I am going to make myself more confident based on the fact that I got the ball up and down and kept my focus at the right places.”