Padraig Harrington won’t give up his search for golf’s special secret or his hopes of winning the Grand Slam of all four majors in one year.
But he can’t afford get excited about the stellar major venues this term with the Masters at Augusta, the US Open at Pebble Beach, the Open on the Old Course at St Andrews and the US PGA at spectacular Whistling Straits.
Set to begin his quest for the Slam with some warm weather practice in Portugal this week, Harrington said: “I do think of winning a Career Grand Slam.
“If you told me I was going to win another 10 Majors and it didn’t involve the career grand slam, I’d be very happy and would take it.
“If you told me I was going to win another two, I’d love it to be the two Majors that I don’t have and get the career Grand Slam. It’s definitely a motivating thing. So is the yearly Grand Slam.”
Woods held all four majors at once when he won the US Open, the Open and the US PGA in 2000 and then added the 2001 Masters.
Harrington failed to complete the third leg of the "Paddy Slam" at Augusta last year but vows never to give up searching for golf’s ultimate secret.
Still seeking major No 4, he said: “Everything is possible. Every day I go and hit a practice shot I’m hoping it’s the day I can find the secret and I don’t mind saying that.
“I saw an interview with Arnold Palmer when he was 70 coming off the course at a Seniors event telling the world he felt he’d found the secret that day.
“I laughed and thought, ‘That’s me, I’ll be like that for another 40 years.’”
This year’s major venues are extra special but Harrington knows that he can’t afford to get distracted by storied venues like Augusta, Pebble Beach or St Andrews.
He said: “If you are sentimental about playing Major tournaments, this is the year to play them.
“But the venue is only important for two people - the guy who is getting into his first Major or doesn’t play them often and the guy who wins it.
“If you win a Major at one of the better venues it does add a little more to it. But you can only afford to get romantic about the course afterwards.
“If I was looking back in 10 years time, I’d say I won two Opens. Yet if I went on to win at St Andrews, I’d say I won three Opens including one at St Andrews.
“For the guy who wins and for the guy who’s turning up it’s very special. It’s a great honour to play a Major at St Andrews, Augusta and Pebble Beach.
“Meanwhile, the PGA and Whistling Straits have a very strong connection and, in time, it could become a regular venue for the PGA Championship.”
The Open returns to the Old Course at St Andrews just once every five years with Tiger Woods winning the last two editions in 2000 and 2005.
But Harrington knows he can’t afford to the last time, when he was forced to pull out at the last minute because of the death of his father Paddy.
He explained: “I’d be trying to edge it the other way and not give any significance to it at all. It’s tough enough out there without bringing any other emotion into it.
“I’m not going to go to any of these and try to say ‘this is more special’ or anything like that. I might say it afterwards but beforehand it’s a matter of treating it as a normal event.
“You continue to create your own reality - I won’t say lie to yourself - but every time you turn up you have to tell yourself it’s the best golf course for me.”
All four major venues are perfectly suited to an assault by Harrington - especially if Woods decides to stay away from the game.
Harrington's guide to the 2010 Major venues
Masters Tournament - Augusta National GC
“Augusta is the course which consistently asks the most pressurised questions all the way. You can be standing on the 13th tee knowing if you hit a good tee shot across that corner you’ve a great chance of making eagle.
"Hit a bad tee shot and you’ve a chance of making seven. On another golf course, a good tee shot gives you a chance of getting up around the green and making four. Hit a bad shot, you can still lay it up and have the chance of making four."
US Open - Pebble Beach
Woods began his “Tiger Slam” but winning the last US Open held at Pebble Beach by a whopping 15 shots in 2000 with Harrington 17 shots behind in a share of fifth place.
"It wasn’t dispiriting for me because I was only getting into it and getting there and improving," Harrington said. "It was my first good performance in a Major so I walked away from that having won my tournament."
As for his return to Pebble Beach for a US Open, Harrington said next month's Annual AT&T National Pro-Am was no preparation.
"When you play the AT&T, there’s only about two or three shots in the whole of the week that are like when you play the Open. The difference is amazing. It was one of the toughest courses I’ve played at the US Open but at the AT&T it’s totally different."
The Open - St Andrews
"I don’t know how anybody would class St Andrews as a course for the longer-hitter. It’s one of the shortest golf courses on the rota. It’s one of the courses that you can manoeuvre around and use the wind to make up the difference between a long and shot hitter. The right ball flight gets far more done in St Andrews than somebody with speed, who can hit it. If it’s coming down with too much spin, it’s not running.
"Of all the golf courses in the world, by my counting, you’re looking at certainly 30 approach shots with wedges during the week into abominable pin positions. You can’t believe the difference between the pin positions for the dunhill Links and the Open. I’d like to be a good wedge player that week rather than anything else. Landing it on the money that week is your only option.
"Yeah, it’d be great if you could wing it over the bunkers and things like that. Put it like this, if you can hit the ball straight, you don’t have to carry the bunkers. A guy hitting it straight with a good ball flight will be in every bit as good a position as a guy who can hit it longer and carry the bunkers.
"I disagree there’s any advantage on that golf course. There could be on 12 but there would be sunny weather in summer so you’d be able to carry the bunkers there.
"The reason Tiger has a good advantage there, he spins the ball more than anybody else. The greens are always firm at St Andrews and the pins tight to the big slopes, that’s going to be a bit strength there."
US PGA - Whistling Straits
The Pete Dye designed "links" on the shores of Lake Michigan has a big Irish feel and went down well with Harrington, Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke in 2004.
McGinley tied for sixth place behind play-off winner Vijay Singh but Harrington has happy memories despite finishing 45th
"It’s a super course, it really is. A phenomenal job. It’s interesting to play that style of golf course in such better weather – it’s different to playing a links course where you expect some sort of average weather during the week.
"You’ve got to understand about Whistling Straits and Pete Dye’s design is he’s designing courses with the old adage ‘it’s not meant to be fair’.
H"e puts stuff in there like that pot bunker in front of the fifth or sixth – if you hit it there, you’ll be in there all day. The whole idea is to avoid it, exactly the same as the one on the front of 11 in St Andrews. It’s not meant to be fair.
"You could hit a god shot into 11, just be a yard short and take double bogey, while I’ll hit a poor shot 10 yards past the flag and it comes back to the hole."