O'Meara sees green for Padraig

From Brian Keogh in Dubai

Mark O’Meara knows what it’s like to shove the Claret Jug out of the way to make room for the Corn Flakes on his breakfast table.

But in contrast to Padraig Harrington, O'Meara could easily tucked into a full Irish breakfast wearing a green jacket in place of a dressing gown after his double-major winning exploits of 1998.

Double major winners are few and far between in the modern game and while Harrington would have to win at Augusta and again at Birkdale to match the American's feat, O’Meara points to the Dubliner as one of the front-runners for a green jacket fitting at Augusta National in April.

Set to tee it up alongside pal Tiger Woods in this week’s Dubai Desert Classic before jetting on to New Delhi for the co-sanctioned Indian Masters, O’Meara is something of a Harrington fan.

And as the tenth anniversary of his glorious 1998 season rolls around, the blue-eyed boy from South Carolina predicts that Harrington has what it takes to become a two-time major champion himself by clinching victory amongst the dogwoods and azalaes in ten weeks’ time.

“It is only going to help Padraig for Augusta and the other Major Championships now that he has won a first Major,” said O’Meara, who 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 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 to clinch his place in history alongside Masters and Open winners such as Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan.

“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.”

O’Meara’s two major victories were a shock to many but few would be surprised if Ireland’s great golfing ambassador were to become the first Irishman to don the green jacket awarded to the Masters champion.

O’Meara agrees, explaining: “Padraig has always been a player who had Major winner stamped on him because 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.

“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. He’s also 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.”

It took O’Meara 15 tries to win the Masters and 14 to lift the Open. But while Harrington will only be making his ninth appearance at Augusta, only a fool would write him off completely.

Harrington is not playing in Dubai this week as he battles to recover from a bout of shingles. But he is nonetheless convinced that he will be ready to fly out to California on Sunday for next week’s Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.