Lesson for Harrington

By Brian Keogh

Padraig Harrington kissed his Order of Merit crown goodbye and confessed: I've learnt a massive lesson.

The Dubliner, 35, self-destructed when he got involved in a complicated rules discussion that totally wrecked his concentration.

Harrington knows that he should he minded his own business instead of getting involved with playing partner Martin Kaymer and a Spanish referee on Valderrama's fourth hole.

Every golfer is duty bound to point out a possible breach of the rules but Harrington forget Rule 34-2, which states that the referee's decision is final.

The protracted dispute over exactly where the German rookie should drop his ball after landing in a bush ultimately proved totally disconcerting to Harrington, who was looking good after a birdie at the first hole.

Yet he missed his birdie putt at the fourth and then bogeyed the next from the middle of the fairway - leaving his approach short of the green and then duffing his putt from the apron.

Still bitterly disappointed to finish two strokes outside a play-off featuring new European No 1 Justin Rose, Soren Kjeldsen and Simon Dyson, Harrington promised never to let it happen again.

Harrington said: "It certainly knocked me out of my zone. I was in the zone and it certainly was something I’ll have to deal with in the future.

"You’ve got to make sure that despite all the things that happen in the round, you have got to stay focussed.

"You don’t get knocked out and distracted by anything and that was ... You know, you learn something every day."

Harrington was reluctant to say too much about the incident, which required Kaymer to drop on the fifth tee, in a direct line between the pin and the bush where his ball had finished.

The German appeared to be taking an incorrect drop and as Harrington was marking his card, he felt obliged to get involved.

He explained: "I was asked my opinion in the first place and we called the referee. I suppose I am marking the card so I have to be sure.

"There’s not much I really can say about this. As you understand, in golf the referee’s decision is final and Martin was out of the tournament as well.

"It wasn’t like he was in contention. But you know these are things that are part of the game."

Harrington will look back on the tournament and a series of errors that proved vital in the end.

His putting routine cost him a stroke on the opening day when the ball moved on the seventh green after he had addressed.

Yet the Dubliner has no plans to change his habit of placing the putter behind the ball and then bringing it back inside for a few practice strokes before going back to the ball.

He said: "You can't protect yourself from everything on the course. So I'm quite happy with the routine and I'm not going to change it because it's only one instant."

Yet Harrington's putting proved to be the biggest disappointment over the course of the final round.

With Rose dropping shots like confetti on the back nine, Harrington hit a series of poor efforts with the short stick, especially at the death.

A missed par putt on the 16th and a birdie chance on the 17th proved absolutely crucial.

And he looked a forlorn figure as he carried his son Patrick on his shoulders as he headed for the players lounge afterwards.

He said: "At this very moment, I’m very disappointed. Obviously there was a great opportunity there and it doesn’t feel good at the moment, especially after my good start.

"You work all week to get yourself in position, in the zone, and it certainly felt like that over the first couple of holes."

In fairness to Rose, he came into the tournament needing to finish third at worst to take the Order of Merit and won the event.

One behind Kjeldsen standing on the 17th tee, he birdied the hole to draw level when the pressure was at its height.

His extra time victory pushed him past Harrington to seventh in the world, making his European No 1 and the leading European in the world golf ranking.

Now that he has succeeded Harrington as King of Europe, he wants to match him and win a major title.

This year he was tied fifth in the Masters, tied 10th in the US Open and tied 12th in the Open and the US PGA.

Rose said: "I still have that dream. That's really what drives me. I geared my year around the majors this year and this week I actually treated a lot more like a major than any other tournament that hasn't been a major.

"Ultimately I want my career to include a major championship, or more than one, hopefully.

"I've won The Open Championship a thousand times on the putting green back home, so it's something I've always dreamed about as a kid, and hopefully will go onto do one day."

In another lesson for Harrington, Rose has played just 21 events this season compared to 26 by the Dubliner, who could play another four events this year.

The pair will be in China this week for the first event of the 2008 European Tour season - the HSBC Champions Tournament in Shanghai.

And Harrington is determined to put his Valderrama disappointment behind him quickly.

He sado: "I won’t necessarily be prepared well for next week and that’s a big issue but I think disappointment like this will only spur me on, to be honest.

"I would think it’ll have the opposite effect. I’ll be trying harder rather than taking it easy over the next few weeks."

After China, Harrington heads to Japan to defend his Dunlop Phoenix title and may tee it up in the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa from November 29-December 2.

However, his wife Caroline is due to give birth to the couple's second child around that time, which could force him to pull out before returning to action for Tiger Woods' Target World Challenge two weeks before Christmas.

World Rankings
1 Tiger Woods 22.61
2 Phil Mickelson 8.95
3 Jim Furyk 7.49
4 Ernie Els 7.08
5 Steve Stricker 6.99
6 Adam Scott 6.30
7 Justin Rose 6.14
8 Padraig Harrington 6.00
9 Rory Sabbatini 5.65
10 Vijay Singh 5.59

Other Irish
109 Graeme McDowell 1.45
200 Paul McGinley 0.94
225 Darren Clarke 0.80
251 Rory McIlroy 0.72
276 Peter Lawrie 0.65
318 Damien McGrane 0.56
380 Gary Murphy 0.47
444 Colm Moriarty 0.38