Harrington jokes that Woods is running scared


Tiger tamer Padraig Harrington danced for joy around the locker room at Sherwood Country Club and roared: "I have him scared, he's on the run."

The Dubliner had just heard the best news of the year and he couldn't help but beam from ear to ear.

A massive statistical survey by Golf Digest has revealed the Harrington is the only player in golf who regularly outscores Woods when they play together.

Tiger effect? Forget it. It's Woods who's suffering the Harrington effect and the Irish ace is over the moon.

US magazine Golf Digest has analysed over 800 tournament rounds by Woods over the past 10 years and compiled a table which will be published in the next issue.

It reveals that of the 19 players who have played a minimum of five rounds with the 12-time Major winner, Harrington is the only one who has come out smiling.

Not including his play-off victory in Japan last month, Harrington has played six rounds with Tiger and outscored him by more than half a shot - 68.83 to 69.50.

And that's a massive boost as he bids to deny Woods again and take the $1.35 million cheque in this week's Target World Challenge.

His caddie Ronan Flood and pal Noel Fox looked up from a friendly game of pool as Harrington told them the news.

Dancing from foot to foot, he said: "Gee whizz, I am impressed. Did you hear that lads? I have him scared, he's on the run."



His reaction was tongue in cheek but the world No 7 was seriously impressed to learn that he is the only player who consistently raises his game in Woods' company.

The next best on the list of 19 players is Vijay Singh who's shot an average of 70.14 to Woods' 69.48 in 21 rounds - down 0.66 of a shot per round.

Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk and Retief Goosen are all giving away more than 1.5 shots a round while Luke Donald and Jose Maria Olazabal are giving away more than two strokes to the California genius.

Darren Clarke beat him in the 2000 Accenture World Matchplay - but in strokeplay Clarke is 3.23 shots worse than Woods when they tee it up together.

Harrington knows that beating Woods head to head will only count for something when he does it in a Major.

So does it really mean anything to him?

Harrington reflected for a second and said: "Of course it does. It's a nice stat. A very nice stat.

"Does it mean the law of averages are with me if I’m playing Tiger in the last round of the Masters? No. That’s wrong.

"The law of averages says I am ahead. So the law of averages says I am going to lose and go back to average because I am ahead of average. I would work on the law of averages when I get to play Tiger in a playoff. He is 10 and 1 so that means on the law of averages he is not going to hold that record forever so it is going to move in my favour.

"But it gives me confidence. Without a doubt, it is a confident thing to say. My approach to playing in that situation is obviously having some success.

"What it’s all about is if I can do it head to head in a Major. That hasn’t gone for me so far. I was obviously respectable enough in Bethpage in '02 (Tiger beat him) but obviously you want to beat him head to head or win in the play-off when it is a major. It is the next step but it is good that I have done it so far."

Harrington would still love to do it again this week and end his best ever season on a high note.

He won the Target World Challenge in 2002 and apart from his debut in 2001, when he was 13th, Harrington has never finished outside the top three at Sherwood Country Club.

As for his record against Woods, Harrington puts it all down to the fact that he spent his entire amateur career playing the top dogs - and beating them.

He explained: "The reason why I have tended to do quite well against Tiger compared to other people is because every time I have teed it up from when I was an amateur, I always had the guy I played against up there on a pedestal.

"Whenever I played for Ireland I nearly always played the biggest name in Britain, whether it was England, Scotland or Wales. And that meant that he was the guy getting hyped. He was meant to be better than me.

"And when I turned pro, whether I played against Phil Mickelson or Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, they are all on a pedestal to me. I’ve had more experience at this than the other guys.

"Take Ernie Els. From the age of 13, he never teed it up in an event where he wasn’t the favourite. But I’ve teed it up many times when I haven’t been the favourite. I have much more experience of being the underdog.

"That’s my take on it. Compared to some other guys - and I am not saying who they are - who are more used to being the star performer, it is a different feeling for them and a different experience.

"For me it is the same feeling I had when I was 20 years of age or 21 years of age playing Gordon Sherry, Warren Bennett or one of these guys who was hyped up by the papers to be the next great player.

"It was the same when I turned pro. Whether it was Monty in Europe, or Lee or Darren, you had them on a pedestal so you were always the underdog."

This week's 16-man field boasts the top 12 available players from the World Rankings and four special invitations.

And Harrington is determined to close out his year with a win before coming back out in the middle of his winter break for a lucrative appearance in January's Abu Dhabi Championship.

After arriving in California on Monday, Harrington went to the Titleist Performance Institute in Carlsbad to test the latest golf balls.

He only played nine holes at Sherwood on Tuesday, finishing in darkness before playing another 18 holes in the Pro-Am yesterday.

Assessing his chances of rounding off his year with a third victory, he said: "At the end of the day you are here and trying to win the golf tournament. That’s really what it is about. It is a good feeling to try and win at the end of the year. One last hurrah - it would be nice to go out on a win.

"I do find the golf course tough, but it obviously suits me somewhere along the line.

"I know where the pins are and I have to say, it’s nice coming back to the same golf course every year.

"It plays reasonably the same. My experience is good on it. So I am definitely coming at an advantage.

"Playing it a few years in a row, you tend to know where the pins are and what the dangers are. It helps with your decision making when and where not to go for pins."

After being crowned European No 1 this year, Harrington was not too disappointed to be overlooked for the European Tour Player of the Year Award.

After learning that Paul Casey had been handed the gong, he said: "What can I say? I didn't win. I'm still very happy with my year.

"At the World Cup last week it just didn't happen. At all times at the end of the year you are in danger of that occurring. If you don’t get a good start you don’t get the adrenaline to stay sharp and stay in there.

"But I am not delighted to see the end of any year. Okay, I am looking forward to working and doing things during the winter. I don’t believe in wishing years away but there are loads of things I want to work on all the way through my game this winter, not just getting more distance.

"If anything needs big attention during the winter it is my bunker play. I’ve struggled for a long time in the bunkers but I need to get that sorted out."

Harrington is more touchy about his putting, which has been streaky this year though he firmly denies that he is developing a problem on the greens.

He said: "My putting? It has been very erratic this year. That will always get the attention it deserves.

"It seems like I have been streakier, without a doubt this year. Every year in the past I think I have led a putting stat, this year I don’t think I came close. I think the weakest part of my game this year has been my putting. Yet, it was good at the Dunhill and it was good in Japan. Two wins.

"What actually happened is I started to play a little bit better at golf which means you tend to get longer putts. I used to play more erratically, which will always make you a better putter. If you want to be a good putter, miss the greens, it is as simple as that.

"If you want to be an average putter, hit it to 20 feet all day because no matter how good you are , you are not going to hole those consistently.

"Is it acceptable? No, I would rather putt better. I definitely have issues with my putting that need to be sorted out, without a doubt.

"At times during the year I got frustrated with my reading of greens that I just stopped doing it. I’ll know where a putt breaks from most of the time, instinctively.

"I just haven’t read them, so you then doubt yourself. If I have putted badly, I have putted badly because of my reads. That is my number one issue.

"That’s why sometimes I don’t bother reading them. Then you don’t doubt it. It is more instinctive."

Harrington is always a work in progress and he doesn't think that's going to change any time soon as he chases that major win

He added: "Golf is like spending your life doing a 10,000 piece jigsaw. And it is double sided. But I am edging closer down that road - towards the majors. I am improving as a player. Definitely.

"I really had a good year this year in terms that I played well at the start of the year. And I feel I can get my game back to that level. And mentally I was much better at the end of the year. So it is trying to get the two together."