Harrington fears no-one but himself and Augusta

Padraig Harrington fears nobody but himself and Augusta National as he bids to become Ireland’s first Masters champion.

Tiger? Phil? Ernie? No. Not them.

The tough as nails Dubliner has gone toe to toe with the best in the game and beaten them.

But he’s yet to conquer the toughest test in golf and he knows that if he brings his best stuff to the Cathedral of Pines next week, it’s pretty unkikely that he will be denied a green jacket - size 44 long.

Assessing his greatest challenge, Harrington said: “I fear myself much more than anybody else. I know that if I perform to my ability, there are only a few people who can beat me.

“But I also know that if I do that,  they have got to  perform to best of their ability to beat me and what are the chances of both of us performing to the best of our ability on the same day? Very slim.  

“It is all about me doing my thing and I know that if I put it up to everybody else, even if someone is better than me, I will actually end up with more positive results by doing my thing over and over and over and over. 

“By making somebody else have to play to the top end of their game, I can tell you, it doesn’t happen too often. 

“That’s because my game, my repetitiveness and my consistency and doggedness - all those things that go with my game - will leave him having to play to his very best.

“He might only do that four out of every 10 times. If I do my good stuff 10 out of 10 times, I will get the six wins and he will get four. That is the way look at it.”

Harrington’s biggest challenger is not  Woods, Mickelson or Els but 7,435 yards of prime Georgia real estate and his own brain. It’s a chess game on a grand scale and mistakes are fatal.

He said: “Augusta would be the golf course that intimidates me the most. Always has. There is not a shot at Augusta where you are not under pressure. All the way through the  golf course. 

“You can’t name the hole out there that doesn’t put you under a little bit of stress and pressure. But I like that. It is 72 holes of he who deals with it best. 

“I have always played based on fear and I am never going to get away from it. That is my nature.”

Augusta National never tires of presenting the game’s best with shots that scare them to death.

There’s the narrow drive through the pines at the 11th, the doubt that swirling winds create in the mind at the par-three 12th and the impossible pitch from a downhill lie to a car bonnet 15th green. 

The list goes on and on but Harrington loves the challenge because the tougher the question, the more the field suffers and the better he performs.

His mediocre record on the par-fives there is part of the reason he is still waiting to don a green jacket. There are simply too many options. Does he lay up or go for the green? 

If there is water left and trees right, he will find the trees. But if there is trouble on both sides of the fairway, he’ll stripe one down the middle. 

He beamed: “That is just the way I have always played the game. I can survive in the trees and probably still make par or birdie.  But you can’t play from out of bounds. You can’t hit from out of a water hazard. That’s just the nature of the game. 

“So I am always better when I am absolutely pushed to the end. And a lot of shots at Augusta do that. That’s what I like that about Augusta.

“There are a lot of golf shots where there is no point in bailing out and hitting to the other side of the green because you are not going to make your par from there. You have to take  on the shot that is a good thing. 

“So Augusta continually tests you to find your shot and then stay committed to it. Very rarely do you get way with it if you lose that commitment.”