Padraig Harrington says he will be as nervous as when he kissed his wife for the first time when he bids for Masters glory next week.

But far from looking like a shy lover, the triple major winning Dubliner had his major game face on as he prepared to begin his major countdown alongside Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke at the star-studded Shell Houston Open.

The super-fit Irish ace has put on pounds of muscle in the gym over the winter and believes he will be ready for anything when he seeks the third leg of the Paddy Slam.

Refusing even to think about a possible clash with Tiger Woods, Harrington rapped: “I am minding my own business now at this stage and if I don't win next week, I couldn't care less who wins.

“Tiger’s short game was great and he won and all that. But I am only paying attention to my game and trying to get my game ready. The best thing I can do next week is play my golf and play as well as I can.

“There is no point in me not performing and Tiger not performing. There is no point in me worrying about him not playing well. I have got to play well first."

Set to tee it up at Augusta for the tenth time, Harrington says he will have butterflies in his stomach as usual but hopes make sure he's ready by knocking his game into shape at Redstone Golf Club in Houston.

He said: "My objective is to finish here on Sunday night happy going into the Masters next Thursday. Happy means  having everything ready to go and you not feeling like you have got to do anything else.

“But what happens next week does not determine how many Majors I am going to win over the next 10 years.”

The course at Redstone has been set up to imitate the conditions at Augusta with shaved chipping areas, a first cut of rough and lightning fast greens.

But there is no way of replicating the nerves that Harrington will feel when he makes his bid for a third straight Major.

He said: “I am nervous every time. Every major when you get on the first tee and the anticipation is there, there are a little but of nerves.

“You get up in the morning and you have that little bit of butterflies and if you’re not nervous you should be giving the game up. There is no use going out there if it is all hum drum.

“The nervous you feel are exactly the same as the nerves anyone feels when they are nervous. Were you nervous the first time you kissed your wife? Well, it’s exactly like that.”

Harrington has struggled with his game so far this season, especially off the tee, but hopes to ease his path to major glory by tweaking his equipment.

He has put in a driver with 9.5 degrees of loft - one degree more that normal - changed his wedges and shaved the flange on his lob wedge for those tight Augusta lies.

He said: "I have changed my wedge this week for next week. Changed my lob wedge and put in a new pitching wedge and sand wedge, same model. And I have also put in a new lob wedge with two degrees less bounce - took a bit of the flange off it for next week. That won't necessarily suit the bunkers this week but it will be good for next week."

And while the nerves don’t go away, he reckons he’s a better player than he was 12 months ago.

But he’s also stronger, explaining: “I’m 13 stone 10 compared to 13 stone four but I don’t think I’d be making the Irish rugby team.

“They’d have to put me as far away as possible from someone hitting me, out on the wing. Please don’t hit me. That’s the position I’d say.”

Harrington is most looking forward to having his son Paddy act as caddie for him in next week’s par-three competition but Clarke needs to win in Houston if he is to qualify for the Masters.

And he will be teeing it up at Redstone Golf Club trying to banish the memories of his wife Heather’s tragic battle with terminal cancer.

Three years ago, the Ulsterman opened with a 68 in Houston but then dashed home to be by her side.

Clarke said: “Heather had just taken a real bad turn and had to be rushed into hospital.  I sat out on the lawn in front of the clubhouse with my caddie Billy Foster and Vijay Singh.

“Vijay is a very good friend, and we had  chat and they said you have to go home, so I withdrew and went home to be with Heather.”

Clarke knows he has to win to grab a last gasp Masters place with Harrington, McIlroy and Graeme McDowell and confessed that he will be pulling out all the stops.

He said: “It goes without saying that I would dearly love to be going to Augusta and if I’m not, I will go back home to Ireland and drink a few pints of Guinness.

“It is the last spot into Augusta and someone has to win this week and I have been working really well at home.”

Clarke has been using a special wrist gadget as well as video cameras to try and work out why he is losing distance off the tee.

He said: “I’m a gadget man and it’s something that I have enjoyed using. It just goes tic tack and lets me know if I break my wrist or not.

“It became a bit too obvious that I had too much cup in my left wrist all the way through my swing so I am trying to flatten my left wrist.

“My ball striking has improved because of that.  But I don’t know if I’ve worked that out in time so that it will work this week though it is something that I will continue working with.”