Beam me up Padraig

By Brian Keogh

Padraig Harrington admits that he will have to play Star Trek golf to win the Masters this week - by going right to the limit.

The Dubliner tees it up at Augusta for the eighth time and at the age of 35, the time has come to take his game to warp speed.

Drawn with Luke Donald and Jerry Kelly for the first two rounds, the world No 10 goes out in the match ahead of hot favourite Tiger Woods.

But to stay ahead of Woods for all four days, Harrington knows that he will have to play the golf of his life.

He said: "Unlike the other Majors, I know I have got to play right on the edge at Augusta. I have to go to the outer limits.

"I can play within myself and still compete on most courses, but at Augusta, I find I've got to play right on the edge. That's the way I would describe challenging for the Masters.

"Augusta is my favourite course but it is also the most difficult one to win. It really asks the questions.

"When you are coming down that stretch, not alone are you asked to hit the ball straight, you are asked to control your spin and land it in the right area.

"A little fraction out ... average doesn’t cut it there. Average shots won’t do you coming home.

"You have got to hit it really well. I think you have got to go for it and accept your punishment but it has got to be right. It is always going to be on the edge there."

Harrington positive record against Woods in recent years - he beat him in the Target World Challenge in 2002 and at last year's Dunlop Phoenix Tournament in Japan - is something that only gives him confidence.

And while the Dubliner admits that Woods is undoubtedly the best player in the world, he is not going to fall into the trap of becoming Woods-obsessed.

He said: "I put everybody up on a pedestal, but I put them all up there; the last thing I want to do is put one player up there.

"I try to play down the significance of the player I am competing against and play up more to the significance of what I do."

Despite all that, Harrington knows that the gap between Woods and rest is not as big as it was in 2000 - when the game's leading player romped to a 15-shot win in the US Open at Pebble Beach and took the Open by eight shots at St Andrews.

Harrrington said: "I'm sure Tiger will tell you he's better than he was in 2000. Though he's definitely back to being the best player in the world, the gap there was in 2000 is not there now. That's the way I see it."

The Dubliner has yet to put four rounds together this year, but is still hopeful he can time his run to line to perfection.

He added: "I'm definitely hoping to peak here, no question about it, and I didn't peak the last two weeks.

"I finished 24th and the 19th, but my form has been solid, no question about it, so far this year."