Padraig Harrington feared he would be labelled a one-hit wonder if he failed to win another Major.
And he will rely on that fear and determination to drive him on to future Major glory and golfing immortality.
The down-to-earth Dubliner joined the greats of the game when he retained the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale with one of the most impressive back nine performances of all time.
And that’s why he has vowed to stick with the ingredients that have made him the most successful European golfer this century as he bids to add to his Major haul.
Reflecting on his feat, Harrington said: “I think winning a Major last year the biggest fear was not to go down the road of guys who won Majors and struggled to keep the intensity after that. Yes, fear is a big part of me.
“Winning the first major was a real wow, incredible. The reaction after that was, ‘Now I’ve won one Major, let’s try and set yourself apart and win two.’
“Now I’ve got two, I’ve now got to think, I’m in a different club now, what’s the next step? What’s the next grouping of players. I will have time to think of that over the next week and reset some new goals.
“The goal for the last year was to win another Major and I’m thrilled that it has come so quick. Definitely now I’ll have to look to see what is out there.
“There are some very exclusive clubs in golf. Some or along the line and I’ll have to look at those and focus on joining those clubs of players who have won three Majors, I suppose that is first.
“Obviously to win a different Major is another category. Then to win another three categories of Majors. There’s always a level to move up to and I’ve got to try to keep myself pushing forward.
“Whether I succeed in doing it or not, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got clear goals. Some are attainable and some are well out there but you’ve got to keep pushing on.”
If anyone had any doubt about his pedigree following his heart-stopping Open win at Carnoustie last year, when he double bogeyed the 72nd hole, Harrington dismissed them with his history-making five-wood to the 17th on Sunday
His eagle three sent him to the final hole with a four stroke lead and as he basked in the glory yesterday, Harrington was quick to point out the qualities that got him where he is today.
With the Claret Jug gleaming next to him, the middle class son of a modest Garda sergeant was asked what qualities had taken him from the practice ground at Stackstown to the summit of world golf.
And he was quick to recall how he was rejected from the Irish Under 21 squad at 18, despite the fact that he was already one of the most successful ‘Boys’ in the country.
Recalling those days, he said: “My qualities go back to determination, fortitude, my ability to work through things. My ability to look at things, sort them out, find the good in them.
“My ability to overcome. I have never looked like I had the sort of surface talent that many stars of the future look like they have.
“As I said, I can always remember when I was 18 years of age, after dominating in boys golf, I wasn’t picked on a 20-man panel in Ireland for under 21s.
“I wasn’t considered good enough to make the top 20 under 21 players in Ireland. At the time I was probably the best player in Ireland and went on to make the full international team that year.
“It wasn’t that I wasn’t good enough to be on the team but it was amazing that on the surface, whoever was picking that panel could find reasons that maybe my swing didn’t look right, there was something about it that they could come to the conclusion that I wasn’t good enough to be on a 20 man panel, which kind of sets the tone.
“Considering how much I had won at that stage, it was an interesting decision how they could come to that conclusion. I think in many ways over the years I have had to deal with that situation.”
Harrington has had to deal with the doubters at every stage of his career and consistently proved them wrong.
He explained: “A lot of people take the first look and think, oh well, he is getting up and down a lot so that is going to fall apart eventually.
“Or he looks as though he is working awful hard and fighting a lot to do that score. He is getting the most out of it, that won’t last.
“I have seen that to my advantage and worked on some of the other areas of the game to build a more complete model. I think I have learnt over the years that it is a more important what is underneath the surface.
“Under the surface talent is what is more important than what is on the top. You can always learn the ability to his a golf ball.
“What’s important is the ability to think and adapt and work your way forward, to handle the off days to get through the slow periods.
“The mental strength is far more important than talent unless everything goes very well. If you start off and get on a hot streak and never look back, it is always great to find hitting a golf ball the easiest thing in the world.
“But when that breaks down it is harder for those players to come back. The guys who have a bit of a work ethic and have always had to work on their own game and figure out and work through it a bit at times are the ones that last a little longer.”
Harrington has finished second 30 times in his professional career but it his last runner up place came in the 2006 Volvo Masters, securing his first Order of Merit title.
With that goal achieved, he set his sights on the Majors, winning the Open the following July.
And while he immediately set his sights on winning multiple majors, he confessed that he never imagined he would achieve his goal so quickly.
The plan now is to continue to use his steely determination to win a third Major title and join the likes of Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Henry Cotton, Vijay Singh, Payne Stewart and Nick Price in the pantheon of greats.
Reflecting on the enormity of his feat, he said: “It did start to sink in a bit during the night last night. I think you win it for the first time, it’s a real high and the way it happened was very exciting.
“This time round it was more of a determined effort, more satisfying and in many ways more rewarding.
“To have done it back-to-back is very special. To have two Majors is very special but I think it was most satisfying to go out in the last group and performing when I needed to. Playing the golf in the final round of a Major when it’s put up to you is a nice confidence-booster.”
Harrington hasn’t always used confidence to his advantage and he bluntly admits that fear works better for him.
After his annual winter break, when he takes six weeks off, he is never quite sure if the magic will be there when he comes out to play again.
That fear has diminished over the years, but is still there nonetheless.
He explained: “Fear has always been a motivating factor in my golf. Fear can be quite a negative emotion to use to push you on.
“This is my 12th year on Tour and certainly for eight or nine years, every time I took my winter break, I was very anxious I would come out and it would still be there.
“You can still see that my results are always good at the start of the year because I’m anxious to get out there and prove myself again. I think I have become more comfortable over the last number of years that a certain level of my game would be there.”
Harrington’s biggest fear last winter was that he would go down in history as another one-hit wonder Major winner.
And it was that fear that pushed him on to become the first European for 102 years to retain the Open Championship.
He explained: “I think winning a Major last year the biggest fear was not to go down the road of guys who won Majors and struggled to keep the intensity after that. Yes, fear is a big part of me.”
With the US PGA just two weeks away, Harrington as no fear that he will suffer the same post-Open winning blues that saw him finish in the pack last year.
He said: “I don’t believe I am going to be as mentally hit as I was last year. In a great sense it is all a blur after you win but I am assuming that after the second one, I am going to be a more solid winner.
“And while I am thrilled to win, the high isn’t the same. I am looking forward to the PGA. I am happy that I have just got to be a little bit disciplined between now and then in some areas in terms of not overdoing the practice and I should be ready for the PGA. I am looking forward to it.”