Crucifixion ... No, Open Championship actually

By Brian Keogh

Padraig Harrington won't admit that he's a big fan of Monty Python's "Life of Brian" and its hilariously irreverent Crucifixion scene.

When the Roman overseer asks the condemned man if he's next in line for crucifixion, he cheekily replies: "Er, no, freedom actually."

Harrington might easily have replied: "Er, no, Open champion actually" after he escaped being nailed as a choker when Sergio Garcia's 12-foot putt for the Open lipped out on the 72nd green.

Golf was never meant to be fair and Harrington admits that he is fully aware that the knives would have been out for him had Garcia parred the last and taken the title.

After a whirlwind week of backslaps, interviews and public appearances, the Dubliner knows that his life will never quite be the same again - even if he is grilled about Tiger Woods during Mass again.

He's determined not to change one bit and has vowed to learn from the mistakes of 2005 US Open winner Michael Campbell, who confessed the he found it hard to get out of bed after achieving his life's ambition.

Reflecting on how close he came to Open disaster with that closing double bogey six, Harrington said: "Don’t worry. I am a realist. I know exactly where I stand.

"It is a very fine line. But it wasn't close in my eyes. If Sergio holes his putt .... who knows. But golf is a funny game.

"I will always be enough of a realist to know what could have happened. It goes like that in majors all the time. But I have one now and nobody can take it away.

"I don’t regret taking six at the last. I won the Open Championship. I played the best golf on the day and after that, I don’t really care. I know I got a break but I could have had loads of breaks during the day.

"If my birdie putt on 16 had gone in, I would have had a two-shot lead going to the 18th, hit a hybrid off the tee, laid up, won by two and nobody would have known any different.”

Harrington admits that he probably won't realise the full enormity of his achievement until he retires.

In the meantime he is determined to make sure that he is ambitious enough not to make winning one major the pinnacle of his career.

Kiwi Campbell told Harrington: “The mistake I made was to make winning a major my ultimate goal. And once you do that in life, what's next?”

Speaking before a fund-raiser in aid of the Links Golfing Society at The K Club, Harrington said: "Michael is a good friend of mine and we had a good chat about it. He was telling me: 'Don’t feel like winning a major is the end of the journey.'

"He had put it up on a pedestal so much that at the time he won it, that was the pinnacle of his career and at the time he was telling me, you have got to feel like there is more to be done.

"And I feel like I have been saying that and I have been trying to convince myself that I want to go out there and win more majors. Nobody will take away the fact that I won the Open Championship.

"It did actually cross my thoughts about a year ago. How will I feel about the game if I had won a major and hadn’t performed well after that. How would I feel if I went the next two or three years playing poorly compared to not winning a major?

"The Open championship won’t keep me happy for that long. It will keep me happy when I have finished my career but when I am competing I will feel that I have to win more.

"Trying to go out and win another major is the first goal. There has got to be more than one goal. If I win another major, especially if it is one of the other three, then it highlights the goal of winning the last two. But I won’t complain if I win the Open again."

Harrington's end of season schedule is still being mapped out and while he will play the Seve Trophy at the Heritage in September, he has pulled out of November's World Cup and is likely to put away his clubs after the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan from November 15-18.

Winning majors is the goal now but Harrington revealed that he did not truly know he could win one until last year’s Masters.

He explained: “I walked off and said to Bob Rotella, I am capable of winning one of these. I have only felt inside me that I have been a threat to win a major for the last two years.

“I feel I have won it quite quickly, actually, in my own sphere. Hopefully I will move on and try to be competitive and be in the right place at the right time and things can happen when I am in that position.”

Primetime US chat show appearances with Jay Leno or Conan O’Brien are next on the list for Harrington, who plays the WGC Bridgestone Invitational followed by the US PGA Championship in the next fortnight.

But will being a major champion change him as a person?

He replied: “I hope it doesn’t change me as a person. I hope it doesn’t change my life. I think it was pretty good as it was.

“Living in ireland is the best thing. People generally are very encouraging and 99 percent of all people do the right thing and know the right time to congratulate you and the right time to leave you alone.”

There are exceptions though, such as the time a golf fan grilled him on Tiger Woods during Mass at Ballyroan church.

He grinned: “Still this day and I don’t think I will ever, ever forget it. I turned to give him the sign of peace and he held onto my hand and wanted to have a full conversation about Tiger’s Masters win in 1997. To this day, nothing has surpassed that moment.”