O'Meara backs Harrington for Masters glory

By Brian Keogh

Mark O'Meara is backing Padraig Harrington to follow his Open win with victory in the Masters.

And the American veteran, 51, knows what he's talking about after taking the green jacket and the Claret Jug in 1998.

Set to tee it up alongside in-form pal Tiger Woods in this week's Dubai Desert Classic, O'Meara sees no reason why Harrington can't become a double major champion at Augusta National in April.

Reflecting on Harrington's arrival as a major champion at Carnoustie, O'Meara said: "It is only going to help Padraig for Augusta and the other Major Championships now that he has won a first Major.

"He is very appreciative of what happened at Carnoustie but I think he also realises that 'okay, now that I have got that one under my belt, I should be focussing on the Masters.

"The Masters will mean a lot to him and he certainly he has the talent to win at Augusta.

"And no matter what happens, having the confidence to know that you've done it one time is enough for it to happen again.

"Padraig has always been a player who had Major winner stamped on him as he is a grinder and that's what takes to win a Major.

"It also takes a good short game and Padraig around the greens is very good."

O'Meara joined an elite list of players to capture two Majors in the same year by winning the 127th Open at Royal Birkdale, where Harrington will defend his title in July.

Fresh from finally bagging his first Major title with victory at the Masters just three months earlier, O'Meara showed superb composure to pip long-time leader Brian Watts in a play-off.

Watts, a virtually unknown American now plying his trade in Japan, had led from the second round and bravely held on in the final round to force a play-off.

But it proved one step too far as O'Meara birdied the first of the four extra holes and calmly holed out at the 18th to capture the famous Claret Jug.

Harrington has the same dogged attitude that helped O'Meara win his two majors.

And man from Southern Carolina believes that will be a huge asset at Augusta, where the short game is key.

O'Meara added: "He's also got that ‘not give up attitude' and doesn't seem to get too high or too low but he stays pretty even-keeled on the course plus he's very methodical and that helps win a Major.

"So can he win a green jacket? Yes, I think he can win at Augusta and we've seen that he has played relatively well in The Masters.

"He's making good strides in that direction but Augusta all comes down to putting well."

World No 10 Harrington is recovering from a bout of shingles in Dublin but announced last week that he will be ready to tee it up in the AT&T National at Pebble Beach next week - the first of three US appearances on the trot.

Proud of his Irish roots, O'Meara denied Paul McGinley the Dubai title in 2004.

But all eyes will be on Woods, who opened his season with an eight-shot victory in the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines on Sunday.

Due to arrive in Dubai for his fifth “Classic” appearance today, the world No 1 took the title two years ago and has never finished outside the top 5.