Harrington nervous about Order of Merit

By Brian Keogh

Padraig Harrington could make an emergency trip from Bermuda to Portugal next week as he bids to hang on to his crown as King of Europe.

The Dubliner might have the Claret Jug on his kitchen table, but he admits that he won't be happy if he lets the Order of Merit title get away.

With his lead over England's Justin Rose down from over €300,000 to just €31,407, he's desperate to finish the job by grabbing this week's €3.5 million HSBC World Match Play Championship at Wentworth.

He said: "Firstly, I am leading the Order of Merit and so I want to win it. Secondly, I admire the fact that Monty has won it eight times.

"Eight is incredible and I'm not sure it will ever be beaten, but two would not be too bad."

Set to face BMW PGA champion Anders Hansen in tomorrow’s 36-hole first round clash, Harrington has made contingency plans in case he crashes out and one of his Order of Merit rivals such as Rose, Ernie Els, Niclas Fasth or Henrik Stenson goes on to win the title.

He's scheduled to play in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda next Tuesday and Wednesday when he lines up against Masters champion Zach Johnson, US Open winner Angel Cabrera and world number three Jim Furyk, who's a late replacement for Tiger Woods.

But he could jet back to Portugal on Wednesday night and then tee it up with Rose in the first round of the €3 million Portuguese Masters at Victoria Golf Club on Thursday - a course he knows well from the 2005 WGC World Cup.

Refusing to rule out Portugal, Harrington said: "My manager often gets a call from me after I've missed a cut asking if he can get me into an event the next week. You can never tell with me - I've changed my mind in the past."

Last year Harrington added the Mallorca Classic to his schedule late in the day as he chased down Paul Casey in the Order of Merit race.

He missed the cut that time but finished joint second in Valderrama the following week to snatch the Vardon Trophy from Casey by just €35,253.

This year he will miss Mallorca and play for big bonus money in the non-counting Hassan II Trophy in Morocco the week before Valderrama.

But as he chases his first World Match Play title at Wentworth, he's banking on the fear factor to get him over the winning line.

Harrington said: "I tend to play better with fear than I do with confidence. Fear is not a good emotion to work on because it obviously is more stressful but it has worked for me over the years.

"I'm hoping that I still have the ability to hit the shots and focus when the going gets tough."

Harrington doesn't as much fear losing the Order of Merit as losing his drive to win since the claimed his first major title.

And the Order of Merit is a goal that will keep him going over the next three weeks.

He added "There is certainly a fear after The Open Championship that I will struggle because of the motivation after you win so big that you feel like you've made it, and that certainly is making me want to get out there and work on my game. I'm fearful that I will take it easy."

Beaten by Ian Woosnam in the 2001 final and a losing semi-finalist in 1999 and 2004, Harrington wants to end his Wentworth hoodoo this week.

He said: "Wentworth is a fine course and I've never won on it. Obviously I struggle a little bit at the PGA and I have a better opportunity at the Match Play.

"There's certainly a part of me that wants to win a tournament here and I've tended to play the course better when the greens are a little bit softer compared to when they are firm in the PGA in May."

First round rival Hansen beat Rose in a play-off for this year's BMW PGA title and Harrington knows that getting himself mentally right for tomorrow's all-or-nothing clash is a far cry from gradual build up of intensity of a normal 72-hole strokeplay event.

Harrington said: "I don't do comfortable or confidence very well. They are my two worst traits. When I was an amateur, I was probably four shots or even six shots better in match play than I was in stroke play.

"But the way I've progressed with my game as a professional, I've got more consistent, more steady, all of the things that I wasn't as a match player.

"The last few times I played match play, I've struggled to raise my game. I've played steady golf and I've played nice golf, but when it's been put up to me a couple of times, I've actually just not had anything in the tank.
"Obviously I'm up against Anders who is very comfortable at this golf course. So I've got to be ready to go on Thursday morning and play my very best."

HSBC World Match Play, Wentworth
Tomorrow's first round tee times (seeded positions in brackets):
0815 and 1245 (1) Paul Casey (Eng) v (16) Jerry Kelly (USA)
0827 and 1257 (8) Retief Goosen (Rsa) v (9) Angel Cabrera (Arg)
0839 and 1309 (5) Justin Rose (Eng) v (12) Hunter Mahan (USA)
0851 and 1321 (4) Rory Sabbatini (Rsa) v (13) Soren Hansen (Den)
0903 and 1333 (3) Padraig Harrington (Ire) v (14) Anders Hansen (Den)
0915 and 1345 (6) Henrik Stenson (Swe) v (11) Woody Austin (USA)
0927 and 1357 (7) Niclas Fasth (Swe) v (10) Andres Romero (Arg)
0939 and 1409 (2) Ernie Els (Rsa) v (15) Colin Montgomerie (Sco)