Harrington stays cool

By Brian Keogh

Padraig Harrington hopes that playing it cool will put him on a major hot streak at rain-lashed Carnoustie.

The Dubliner, 35, was wrapped himself in a cocoon of concentration as he bids for what he hopes will be the first of many major titles.

And with his swing feeling better than ever, Harrington has targeted the mental game as the key to conquering Carnoustie.

That's because knows that he can’t afford to let his concentration lapse at any stage on a course that has jumped up and bitten him several times already in his career.

He said: “The tougher the golf course, the fairer they set it up. But whether I can do it this week is going to depend on how I handle my internal battle and my mental approach to the whole week.

“There is no shot out there that I can't play. But I have had some great experiences and some terrible experiences on this golf course.

“I have had the full gambit of emotions here and it is a question of getting myself into position.

“As my golf swing has got better I have focussed more and more on the mental game. It is an area where I can improve the most and I have been putting a lot of emphasis on that over the last few weeks. Now is the time to see if I can do it.”

Rated fourth favourite to land the Claret Jug, Harrington knows he’s a different man to the 27-year-old who finish 29th here in 1999.

Back then he had just two tournament wins to his name but this time round he has 19 trophies on the mantelpiece, including the Irish Open and last week’s Irish PGA.

He’s also the European No 1 and one of the few players to have gone head-to-head with Tiger Woods and beaten him.

He said: “In 1999 I qualified at Panmure. So in the space of eight years I have gone from being a qualifier to being fourth favourite this time.

“My golf has improved. Things have gone up and up. My graph has always continued to go the right direction. I guess I have come a long way.

“Now that I am here I have to say that I am happy with my preparation and I am ready to go.

“I find this golf course very difficult but I like my chances. I have a good idea how to get around here but I still find it tough.

“I feel like I am ready to win a major but I believe I have time. I am not pressurizing myself that this has got to be the one.

“If I perform I will get into contention and I know if I get into contention enough times a major win will happen.

“And it will happen more than once because I am not trying to win a major - I am trying to win multiple majors.

“I am not trying to win one and settle for that. The goal for me is to win a number of majors. I have to play my golf - not even my very best golf - and it will happen.”

While Darren Clarke’s form remains a mystery and Paul McGinley struggles with his game, Harrington is Ireland’s obvious title hope.

And after his play-off win on a links at the Irish PGA last week, his confidence is high.

He knows, though that Carnoustie can bite hard and staying out of the traps is a major goal this week.

He added: “It is always good to have a win and it puts me in the right frame of mind coming here. It is amazing how different a game that links golf is and that can work to my advantage.

“Last week's preparation at The European Club was as good as I could have got. It should give me the best chance of playing well.”

Harrington will also be trying hard to banish thoughts of his own Carnoustie carnage from his mind.

He has twice gone out of bounds left of the 499-yard 18th green - losing to eventual winner Stephen Dundas in the quarter-finals of the 1992 British Amateur and then blowing a fistful of cash with another pulled approach on the final day in 1999.

Recalling Jean Van de Velde’s horror finish in 1999, he warned: “If it has taught me anything it is that you can never have a big enough lead going up the 18th at Carnoustie.”