Harrington backs Woods FedEx snub

By Brian Keogh

Padraig Harrington has backed Tiger Wood' decision to snub the first FedEx Cup event.

But the Dubliner won't be sitting down to hold Sergio Garcia's hand in New York after handing the Spaniard that crushing Open Championship defeat at Carnoustie four weeks ago.

Europe's first major winner in eight years is just glad to concentrate on golf for four weeks before his social life becomes "manic" again.

And while he's determined to make the most of his chances of winning the PGA Tour's player of the year title, he says he would be more shattered if he fails to defend his European Order of Merit crown.

As he prepared to tee it up with Justin Rose and Mark Calcavecchia in the Barclays Classic, Harrington called for understanding for Woods.

The FedEx Cup was set up to boost end-of-season TV ratings but Harrington has no problem with the World No 1 taking the week off.

He explained: "Very few of us will play four weeks in a row and Tiger certainly has never gone four weeks in a row. To ask him to play four, it would be a big change.

"If they want players to play all of the events in the future, they somehow have to stagger the four events, maybe have a week off in the middle of them.

"Obviously, the tour is trying to build something here, something exciting at the end of the year, have a crescendo, have some buildup, get the TV viewers in, get some excitement.

"We've had our four majors, we need something else. From the tour's point of view, I see this as, if it doesn't work this year, let's give it a few years and see how it goes."

Woods has never played well at Westchester, only playing the event when it was sponsored by his backers Buick.

And his decision to rest means he will be fresher that all his rivals when he turns up in Boston for next week's 120-man Deutsche Bank Championship.

Harrington looks on absence of Tiger as a chance to close the gap in the FedEx Cup race, adding: "He's got the most points going into it and he's got the ability to take a week off and still be favored to win it outright. But it certainly opens things up a bit more and gives us all a great chance."

Winning is all that Harrington cares about and while he has finished second an amazing 30 times in his his career, he doesn't think he's the man to help Carnoustie victim Garcia through his Open torment.

The pair still haven't met since their dramatic four-hole play-off and while Harrington has no idea how their first meeting will go, he certainly won't be playing agony aunt to his Ryder Cup team mate.

He said: "I don't see myself sitting down and having a big chat with him about it. I'm not the right person. I could see the pain in his face when he lost.

"I did the right things in terms of shaking his hand and commiserating, but I'm not the person who's going to be the one to comfort Sergio after his loss. I think that's a job for his family or someone closer to him than I am.

"It's just the nature of the game. I don't think any words coming from me could make that loss any easier for him."

Garcia moaned about his bad luck immediately after his loss, but Harrington has not paid too much attention to the Spaniard's off-the-cuff comments.

He said: "Obviously, he was interviewed very soon afterward and, you know, it was a disappointing loss and he probably needed to deal with it a bit quick.

"I think with most golfers, we understand that there is an element of good and bad breaks, especially in how you see things as opposed to how they actually are.

"We know over the years that our fellow pros aren't really interested. It's very much the old story of, 'Go ring somebody who cares,' that sort of thing.

"When you get out on tour, when you go out to dinner with some of the senior players, you're told very quickly the minute you start talking about your good and bad breaks on the golf course, you're told pretty quickly by the senior pros, 'We don't want to hear this.'"

Harrington is still coming to terms with his status as Champion Golfer for 2007 and is almost glad to be on the road.

But he knows that life will become a rollercoaster again once he gets back to Ireland for the Seve Trophy at The Heritage.

He said: "It's been easier now that I'm away playing golf, but the minute I get home, it's going to be manic. There are a lot of things coming in already and piling up, a lot of different awards and parties to go to and all sorts of receptions.

"So when I'm away playing it's not too bad, but yeah, it's definitely going to be manic again when I get back home."

Winning the FedEx Cup is Harrington's No 1 goal right now. But he confessed that he'd be more disappointed not to defend his Order of Merit crown in Europe.

Leading by over €325,000 from Barclays playing partner Rose, he said: "I'd be more disappointed to lose the European Order of Merit than I would the FedEx Cup, but I'd be more excited to win the FedEx Cup because of the way I stand.

"If I don't do well in the FedEx Cup in the next couple of events, there's not going to be any story written about that. But if I don't win the European Order of Merit after leading, I would have failed, so it would feel bad to me."

Harrington is scheduled to play just two European Tour events before the season-ending Volvo Masters at Valderrama - the Alfred Dunhill Links and HSBC World Match Play.