No guts, no glory.
No-one would disagree that Padraig Harrington is brave enough to put his neck on the line and take on the shots that will give him his fourth major title. But has he got the resilience that has been the trademark of his career to take the body blows that Hazeltine National might land in the final round?
Two strokes behind Tiger Woods and tied for second with Y.E. Yang on six under par after a third round 69 that could easily have been three shots better, Harrington will not partner the world No 1 in the final group but Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who is just four strokes behind and capable of just about anything.
So far so good. Beat Tiger by three and pray that Stenson and Yang fail to shine and the Wanamaker Trophy will, in all likelihood, remain in Irish hands. As the meerkat would say, simples.
Yet one moment stood out in Harrington’s post-round press conference - an occasion he now appears to relish by hamming it up for the American media with large doses of good humour and self-deprecation.
What was all this about?
“I was very good from about the fourth hole onwards. I was very, very focused in my round, and well into it up on to the 15th. I hit a careless second shot and was trying to get to the clubhouse after that, and disappointed that I bogeyed the last,” he said of his failure to birdie the par five off a perfect drive and then to bogey the 18th to let Tiger out of his sights.
Is he really that fragile, that close to breaking point?
“It really set me back,” he said of the pulled five wood on 15. “You know, I have to avoid any of those errors tomorrow, and I just have to definitely keep the focus going.”
Is Harrington running on fumes after an exhausting Firestone experience that left him feeling so bad on Tuesday that he thought he would faint? Is he running on adrenaline, a second wind?
“Yes,” he said. “I slept well and I think just the fact that things went my way early on in the round keeps me in it. I think that's the important thing for me. I'm doing okay as long as it's going with me. I wouldn't want to get into the slippery slope the other way. But I feel good, yes.”
Not many players can give Tiger Woods a two stroke start in the final round of a major and win. But if anyone can do it, it’s Harrington.
With three majors in the bag and many more chances to come, no doubt, Harrington feels he has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Expect him to come out all guns blazing on a course softened by overnight rain. If he can put himself in position with nine holes to go, it will be as wide-open as Harrington’s eyes were when he won broke Sergio’s heart at Oakland Hills last year.
“Obviously to get a win, you've got to beat him by three tomorrow; that's a tall order, but as I said, everybody in the situation who is behind is going to think, well, you know, we have nothing to lose. You've got to have that attitude.
“I need to have that attitude tomorrow. I've got to stand there on every shot and think to myself, well, so what if I hit a bad shot... I've got to have that attitude to just fire it up and go for those shots, and just be concerned about my good shots, and I'm going to catch three shots, that's the way to do it; not to be ... certainly not to be in any shape or form cautious.”
It’s all or nothing then with Harrington playing the good cop/bad cop roles in a movie where the American public expects the hero to walk off into the sunset with the girl at the end of the day.
Liberated from the shadow of Woods on Saturday, Harrington got a tremendous reception from the Minneapolis crowd in the third round.
He senses that the fans want someone to stand up to Woods and he’s ready to “put it up to him.”
Harrington said: “I get that impression, yes. I get the impression that there's a lot of people who are cheering me on wanting me to push him along, but they still want Tiger to win.
“You know, they would like the idea of, let's support the underdog until he catches up and then we'll support Tiger again sort of thing. So be it. That's fine with me. I'll serve my time.”
Asked why he thought people felt that way, Harrington said: “I think because everybody wants to see a battle. Everybody hopes the underdog catches up, but when he catches up, ultimately, they want the hero to win, as usual. So that's the way all the storybooks are written and all that sort of stuff, and so that's why it is. It's part of our human nature that we support the underdog, up until a certain point.
“If I'm watching a neutral soccer match, I want to see four or five goals and somebody to score in the last couple of minutes and that's it. Even if I'm watching my own team, I want four or five goals and for it to be close up until the end. I think it's natural, people, they want Tiger to win, but they don't want him to win by three or four shots. They want him to be pushed and tested and to show his skills, and I'm happy to fill that role, and you never know what happens over the last nine holes.”
Harrington was six behind Garcia going into the final round of the Open at Carnoustie in 2007 and won in a play-off. At Birkdale last year he was two shots behind Greg Norman and tied with KJ Choi and won by four. At Oakland Hills he was three shots behind Ben Curtis and won by two.
This time it’s not Garcia or Norman or Curtis but Woods who stands in his way.
Woods played well within himself as he shot 71 to Harrington’s 69 on Saturday. A repeat result could mean a play-off. Now wouldn’t that be a treat.