Wolstenholme tips Padraig to end major drought

From Brian Keogh in Pittsburgh

Michael Campbell calls them whingers - pro golfers who complain, moan and groan at the slightest opportunity.

Get ready then to hear them sound off about Oakmont, the toughest course in America and the pride and joy of the tough-talking All-American steel town of Pittsburgh.

But don't expect Padraig Harrington to jump on the bandwagon as the gnashing of teeth starts well ahead of Thursday's opening round of the 107th US Open Championship.

The Dubliner gets a kick out of tough conditions - the harder the better.

And former Walker Cup team mate Gary Wolstenholme reckons that the Irish star's ability to enjoy the stress and get the best out of his game can make him a multiple major champion.

The pair were members of the 1995 side that beat a Tiger Woods inspired USA side 14-10 at Royal Portcawl in 1995.

Since then the Dubliner has gone on to grab top-five finishes in three of the four majors and English legend Wolstenholme expects him to grab a few wins before he's finished, starting this week.

Looking ahead to Oakmont, Wolstenholme said: "Padraig’s a great bet for the US Open. He’s the sort of player who excels in the sort of stress a US Open throws up. He seems to be at his best when the pressure is highest.

"He is willing to grind out scores where others might throw in the towel. Other players might let the course get the better of them, but not Padraig. He will keep trying until the last green, make sure he gets the best possible score possible."

Oakmont already has some of the game's best quaking in their spikes.

The course is already 284 yards longer than it was when Ernie Els beat Colin Montgomerie in a play-off for the 1994 title.

It also boasts the longest-par three and the longest par-five in US Open history in the shape of the 288-yard eighth and the 667-yard 12th.

Yet Wolstenholme believes the 7,230 yard par-70 could be right up Harrington's alley, from the famous Church Pew bunkers on the left of the third to the five-inch deep rough that lurks just six yards from the edge of 25 yard wide fairways.

Gazza added: "I think Oakmont might be his sort of course, too. Everyone seems to be predicting that this could be the toughest US Open course in years, and that should suit Padraig. He is not afraid of tough tests.

"He proved last year he is capable of winning a US Open. He was in there with a chance until the last three holes. He will learn from that. That’s the thing about Padraig, he seems to take the positives from adversity, whereas others might let it dent their confidence."

Harrington is one of the great positive thinkers in the game and the world No 11 - he slipped one spot in Monday's updated rankings - knows that he has the game to pull it off.

After his brave bid for the Masters at Augusta, Harrington knows now that there is no major he cannot win.

And Wolstenholme, who beat Woods in that famous 1995 Walker Cup win, has no doubt that Ireland's leading player can be a multiple major winner.

He said: "It’s not just the US Open that he’s capable of winning. It’s quite possible that Padraig could win any of the majors.

"I used to think his best chance was winning The Open, but now I think he’s capable of winning almost anywhere, so the Masters, US Open and PGA Championships are well within his capabilities.

"We all know how long it’s been since a European has won a major. Well Padraig is my choice to become the next European winner of a major.

What impresses me about Padraig is the way he has developed. I thought he'd be successful in the pro game but not as successful as he has been.

"When he turned pro he wasn’t the longest player. He was a bit streaky, maybe a little short on confidence. But now, he is significantly long. He’s worked so hard on fitness and on his short game. He is now the all round real deal.

"I don’t think we've even come close to seeing him at his best. My view is that he will only get better. I don’t see him winning just won major, but multiple majors."

Harrington loves the idea of a US Open where par is often the winning score.

And he knows exactly what to expect this week as he "Most US Opens demand the same strategy in terms of the questions being asked of you.

"I'll enjoy the challenge. I'm happy with all aspects of my game and hopefully I'll be in my very best form for Oakmont. Of the four majors, I believe the US Open is the one I'm best equipped to win."