By Brian Keogh
Padraig Harrington's packed schedule finally caught up with him this week - forcing him to pull out of the Seve Trophy with fatigue and injuries.
The Dubliner trailed home a tired 11th in the Tour Championship in Atlanta on Sunday, finishing a massive 16 shots behind runaway winner Tiger Woods.
The withdrawal of Ireland's first major champion for 60 years has dealt a massive blow to the Seve Trophy with Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Paul McGinley failing to qualify automatically.
Harrington had been the highest-ranked player on Nick Faldo's Great Britain and Ireland team for the clash with Continental Europe.
But in a statement, hesaid: "I'm afraid that I have been forced to withdraw from the Seve Trophy because of fatigue and injuries relating to this condition.
"In view of this, I have been advised by my trainer and physio to take a two-week break from tournament golf immediately.
"This is a decision I have not taken lightly, as I don't want to let down the GB and Ireland team and, most importantly, the Irish golf fans. I wish the team the best of luck."
The biennial match takes place at The Heritage at Killenard in Co Laois from September 27-30.
And the break from competitive golf will give Harrington time to reassess the way he has structured his schedule in recent years.
While Tiger Woods grabbed PGA Tour victory No 61 in Atlanta - then jetted out with the $1.2 million winner's cheque and a retirement bonus worth another $10 million, he will play just tow more events this year.
The world No 1's astounding eight-shot victory over Mark Calcavecchia and Zach Johnson came in just his 17th start this year.
And when Harrington next meets Tiger's, at his end of season invitational tournament in Los Angeles at the end of December, he will have played at least another six events.
By contrast, Woods will play the Presidents Cup in Cananda next week and then spend the next 11 weeks skin diving off his yacht and playing with his two-month old daughter Sam Alexis.
What the Dubliner was doing in Atlanta was anyone's guess as he had no chance of winning the FedEx Cup and has already played 18 PGA Tour counting events - three more than the minimum required to keep his card.
Harrington earned $167,300 (€120,000) for his share of 11th place and another $180,000 (€130,000) for finishing 29th in the inaugural FedEx Cup.
Yes, there were hefty world rankings points on offer, but with the Dunhill Links, HSBC World Matchplay and the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda next on Harrington's hit-list, taking an extra week off would have done him no harm at all.
Now his body has made a decision for him. And the wisdom of the Dubliner teeing it up in Bermuda in the Grand Slam of Golf from 16-17 October must also be called seriously into question.
Significantly, Woods has already pulled out of that glorified exhibition and been replaced by Jim Furyk.
Harrington will have a week off after Bermuda before heading to Valderrama to defend his Order of Merit title in the Volvo Masters.
But from there it is straight to China for the HSBC Champions, the first event of the 2008 European campaign.
A lucrative defence of his Dunlop Phoenix title in Japan is also pencilled into Harrington's already overflowing diary but he is unlikely now to make a trip to South Africa for the Million Dollar Nedbank Challenge as well.
Harrington's desire to retain his European No 1 crown is understandable, but while complained bitterly during this year's European Open that he is playing too much, he keeps on going.
A tired closing round of 73 left Harrington making up the numbers at a soggy East Lake course that Woods destroyed with the lowest winning total of his career - 23 under par 257.
Beaming his usual smile, Woods said: "I don't look at what the purse is or prize money. You play, and when you play, you play to win, period. That's how my dad raised me.
"If you win, everything will take care of itself. You take great pride in what you do on the golf course, and when you're able to win events, that's when you can go home and be very proud of what you've done."
Like Harrington, Woods played just three of the four FedEx Cup events.
He finished second to Phil Mickelson on his first start but then won the next two - shooting 75 under par for his 12 rounds with a scoring average of 65.75.
Harrington shot nine under par for his 10 rounds - he missed the cut at the Barclays - averaging 69.7 shots a round.
Harrington is now 36 and in the prime of his career. But if he wants to deny Tiger a major or two before he's finished he will need to cut back on his schedule.
He touched on the subject of his packed schedule during the European Open at The K Club, explaining: "I'm playing 30 events this year and it may creep up to 32. It's too many. The best player in the world plays 20 to 22 and that answers a huge amount.
"We are trying to beat the best and you have to look at what they are doing.
"I have to find a way to play less. I sat down with my trainer last night and discussed the problem, but at the moment I don't know what to do.
"To give quality time to my training I need to play less, but there are a lot of good events out there and we are really caught trying to fit everything in.
"There are so many choices. Players are trying to peak for the majors and it's a difficult situation."
The bad news for Harrington is that not only is Woods playing fewer events than ever, he also appears to getting better all the time.
Woods said: "I think that if you have gone through your 20s with just a few majors, it would be a huge success
"Most golfers reach their prime in their 30s. Hopefully you can carry that momentum from your 30s into your 40s, especially now that guys are working out and their longevity and their standard of play is longer than it used to be.
"I didn't see winning this many times in my 20s and now in my 30s. I never would have foreseen that."
Getting ready to win is half the battle and Woods knows how to do that better than anyone else.
He explained: "I think once you experience it, you want to have it again. It's like winning a major championship. It feels so good, you want to get another one.
"And plus, once you do, you understand how to do it. I think that's probably the most important thing, is that you understand how to do it. To win Player of the Year, how do you do that? Well, it's about consistency.
"I remember coming here in '98, I had a chance to win the scoring title and Nick Price birdied a couple holes on the back nine to edge me out for the scoring title. Well, you learn from that. It's about playing well all year.
"You can't have a bad round or bad couple rounds or bad tournaments to win the scoring title. You live and learn from those experiences."
Next year may be different for Woods, who will be expected to head from the FedEx Cup to Kentucky for the Ryder Cup.
As things stand, the matches will be held immediately after the Tour Championship from September 16-21.
Nearly every player on the 2006 US Ryder Cup team played in at least three of the playoff events - Chris DiMarco, Chad Campbell and J.J. Henry played only two.
But just four players from Ian Woosnam's victorious European side made the trip to Atlanta.
Sergio Garcia played in all four events while Harrington, Luke Donald and Henrik Stenson each played three.
If things remain the way they are, European skipper Nick Faldo will have a fresher side at Valhalla.
But will Woods be there to lead help end Europe's bid for a fourth win in a row?
Now that really would be interesting.