Harrington puts Augusta behind him

Padraig Harrington dismissed his 15th hole nightmare at Augusta and insisted: Roll on the next three Majors.

The Dubliner finished tied seventh in the Masters on Sunday after another expensive splashdown at the par five 15th killed his dream of donning the green jacket.

And while he has yet to finish better than fifth in 35 Major appearances, he firmly believes he is closer than ever to winning one of golf's top prizes.

Beaming as he walked off the 18th, Harrington said: "I walk away from this tournament now knowing that I am capable of winning a Masters. So that is a positive note.

"This particular Masters finished for me with my best shot of the week on 15.

"I hit as good a drive as I could and a great second shot straight down the pin. It looked like it could have been anywhere but as it turned out it was in the water.

"I followed that with a good shot on the next hole and took bogey off that. That's the Masters. Another time that is going to go in my favour.

"I could easily have had two birdies there or even an eagle there on 15 but that's the game.

"Often times that goes your way. To hit such a good shot, I never contemplated it would be in the water.

"In fact, I was telling it to get down. I thought it might be long. Only when I heard the oohs and ahhs did I know it was in the water."

The 15th cost Harrington five shots during a week and after finishing just four strokes behind surprise winner Zach Johnson, he believes he is within touching distance of becoming Ireland's first Major winner for 60 years.

But if he finishes his career without a Major, Harrington will have nightmares about the 530-yard 15th for the rest of his days.

While he made a birdie there on Friday, he dumped his third shots in the water in the first and third rounds to run up triple and double bogeys.

Sunday's bogey was the real killer as it came hot on the heels of a birdie at the 12th and an eagle on the 13th that left him just two shots off the lead.

But Harrington was looking on the bright side and he can't wait to get to Oakmont for the US Open in June and the remaining Majors at Carnoustie and Southern Hills.

He said: "I was really happy with how I played. Even when things went against me. I'm comfortable in this position... this is just fantastic. You can't beat playing in these tournaments.

"In the last round, I think I used my putter 34 times and that is too many. But I am really happy with how I played and I even gave myself a chance there on the back nine when things went against me.

"I felt great all day. When I got to the 12th, I could see I was still in it. From that point on I went after every pin. The only pity was I hit a good shot on 15 and it didn't work out.

"I can't wait now for the US Open, the Open and the US PGA. I feel comfortable in these events now and I'm really looking forward to those tournaments."

The official statistics revealed that Harrington finished top of the putting charts at Augusta with an average of less that 27 putts per round.

But after watching Johnson come through to win, he knows now that he is just as well equipped to win a Major.

The American had won just once on the PGA Tour before Sunday's shock victory - and even that one came at the expense of Harrington the Bellsouth Classic.

But Harrington was not the only man who let the green jacket slip from his grasp on a rollercoaster final day when the lead changed hands five times.

And even Johnson admitted that he was afraid that Tiger Woods would hole his second shot at the 18th and force an unlikely play-off.

Johnson said: "A giant has got to fall at some point, so maybe that is the case. I'm sitting in the locker room at 18 waiting for Tiger to hit his second shot. Before he hit, I'm thinking, 'He's done stranger things', the guy is a phenomenon.

"Who knows how long it will be before another player like him comes along. It makes it that much more gratifying that I beat a player like Tiger Woods."
Woods had the lead early in the day but faded to card a level par 72 and share second place with Retief Goosen and Rory Sabbatini.

But when asked if Woods' final round failure made him less intimidating, Harrington would not be drawn.

He said: "I'm intimidated enough about myself. I don't need to worry about other people."

Johnson, a committed Christian, started the week at World No 56 and became the first player from outside the World Top 50 to win the Masters since the Official World Golf Ranking started 21 years ago.

His first Major Championship win took him to world No 15 and he praised God for his victory afterwards.

Johnson said: "It is amazing. It is amazing what God can do. I believe in myself but every now and then you miss a putt and you can get down on yourself but I've had a lot of support. I tried to be non-emotional out there - that was one of my goals.

"I just tried to stay in the present and go through my processes. I knew I could win on the major scene. I felt everything was ready and I prepared very hard."

South Africans Goosen and Sabbatini were happy to have gone so close but Woods was far from pleased after letting a fifth green jacket and 13th Major slip away with a closing 72.

Woods groaned: "Well, this one's not disappointing today. I threw this tournament away on two days when I had two good rounds and I went bogey, bogey.

"So four bogeys in the last two holes basically cost me the tournament. This golf course was playing very difficult. You just had to keep plodding along, give yourself as many good chances you possibly could on birdies. Because they're very hard to come by."