By Brian Keogh

Padraig Harrington handed back the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale yesterday and immediately made plans to tuck it back into his hand luggage on Sunday night.

The Dubliner, 36, knows how close he came to becoming another Open clown at Carnoustie last year when he survived a final hole meltdown and dodged a bullet from Sergio Garcia before winning in sudden-death.

And after enjoying his year as Open champion and travelling the world with the Claret Jug in a large metal box, he has no intention of handing it over without a fight.

In fact, he’s so determined to do the double that he’s told the R&A to get a smaller travel case for the trophy so he can take on the plane with him for another year!

Beaming, Harrington said: “I handed the trophy back today and made the point that I could do with a smaller box so you could travel with it better on airplanes. You can’t take the current one onto a plane because the box is too big.

“Hopefully, when I get it back on Sunday night it’ll be in a little tighter box so I can bring it with me everywhere.”

Harrington had his tongue firmly wedged in his cheek, but he insisted that he hasn’t turned up at Birkdale to put up a solid defence and settle for second best.

With 30 career second places so far, he said: “I wouldn't take it. I'd try to have my chances of winning the 2008 Open. I have to separate this event and play it as any major and get my preparation right and try not to be distracted by being defending champion.”

The line between winning and losing is very fine and Harrington is aware of what he calls “the twin imposters” of success and failure, explaining: "When you win, you're put on a pedestal and when you don't win, it's very easy to be cut down at the knees. To be honest, there's not much difference.

“A player has to keep doing his thing and endeavour to play every event the same, not necessarily focusing on results. Most players have to focus on what they're doing and assume that the results will follow.

“That is the only way you can tackle a loss and that is the only way you should tackle a win too. You can enjoy winning, but you have to realise there isn't much between winning and losing.

“What separates players who win from the others is you've got to want to put yourself on the line. You've got to put your neck out there and sometimes it will get chopped off. You're going to mess up. Some players don't like that feeling."

Spaniard Garcia bawled his eyes out in the locker room last year and confessed that he couldn't sleep on Sunday night.

But Harrington is sure that the Spaniard will be back again looking for Major glory - just like every other great champion the game has produced.

He said: "It couldn't have been an enjoyable experience for Sergio last year, but I'm sure he'd be very happy to be in the same situation again this year and have another go at it.

“That's the difference between being a winner and forever not having a chance. You've got to put yourself in the position.

“You can look foolish, but if you give yourself enough opportunities in that position you'll be more comfortable and you'll succeed more often than not.”