Padraig Harrington is playing his 14th Masters this weekPádraig Harrington biggest struggle at the start of this year was finding a pair of trousers that fit him. Finding a jacket to match is the next step and he’d like it to be green.

As he slowly sheds the extra weight that forced him to delve deep into the wardrobe in January, he’s already back to a 34 inch waist and feeling good about himself as he tees it up in his 14th Masters searching for that elusive fourth major win.

Form is important in golf but when it comes to Augusta National, it’s experience, nerve and mental strength that separates the also rans from the real green jacket contenders.

Harrington is most certainly a contender on those fronts and while his form has been promising, if patchy, the 41-year old has a quiet confidence about him that comes from the comforting knowledge that no matter what happens, he’s won three majors already and may well win more.

“I think it is easier at majors full stop,” he said this week. “There’s only three guys at the moment playing the game who have won more, that means the rest of the field are chasing me this week. I’ve already done it so I am under no stress, which is nice.

“There’s a lot of guys out there who are great players and fine players who would love to win three majors. As I said, I have already done it and I can add to that total which is very nice.

“I’ve achieved enough majors that it far surpasses anything I would have expected or dreamed off when I was a kid and have the possibility to win more which is a fantastic place to be and would be the envy of most players.”

On a more mundane level, Harrington is comforted by the fact that he doesn’t have to “read” the greens this week - his bugbear for several years - but can rely on memory and feel to find a route to the bottom of the cup.

After the putting “horrors” last year, when he still finished eighth despite a closing double bogey and a plethora of missed putts, he looks more comfortable on the greens this time around.

And while he says he’s at less than 100 percent with his wedges and chipping, he’s concentrating more on the mental game having found a replacement for the favourite driver he broke in Thailand three weeks ago.

He looks almost certain to use a new TaylorMade R1 with a 45.5 inches shaft and a neutral setting in the head as opposed to the toe-weighted set up he had in his previous driver, which was a precaution against the pull or hook.

With that worry potentially eliminated, he can concentrate on the really important aspect of playing Augusta - the mental game.

Harrington practiced late into the evening on Monday and Tuesday so he could putt through the “long shadows” that he hopes to face with a late tee-time on Sunday afternoon.

The power of positive thinking goes a long way at Augusta, where disaster lurks at every turn.

“It’s purely mental, every day,” Harrington said. “The rest of the game will look after itself for sure if I putt well.”

Reflecting on last year, when he missed more than half a dozen putts inside 10 feet in the final round, he said: “Losing last year didn’t inspire me in any shape or form. I was disappointed to miss as many putts as I did through that day, I’ve got to putt better. That’s just it. Get a better attitude and hopefully I find it this week. I’m not coming in here having found it, I’m not buzzing about my putting, there is still a lot that needs to be done

“There are a lot of things that are a little bit up in the air but I am not panicking about it. I know better than that at this stage and we will see what game turns up on Thursday, hopefully it is the “A” game. And we will prepare like it is going to be so we are ready to do battle if things fall into place and hopefully with nine holes to go I’ll be right in contention and I know how to win these things.”

As for the excess baggage that comes with past mistakes, he said of the course: “I love it. I don’t actually remember too much of what it has done to me. I am pretty good here. I like the golf course. I feel good. I remember a lot of good things about it to be honest. I would be comfortable and looking forward to the week ahead.”

Rory McIlroy insists he is not being pursued by demons as he prepares to deny Tiger Woods a 15th major and win his first green jack.

The Holywood star, 23, has suffered at Augusta National every year since he made his debut five years ago.

But he tees it up with Keegan Bradley and Swede Freddie Jacobson in the second last group tonight believing his game is ready to take on a course that Graeme McDowell believes is tailor-made for his spectacular game.

“All the demons are gone,” McIlroy said. “They were gone as soon as I got off the 18th green.  What’s done is done and it doesn’t matter.  

“It was the front nine that I struggled on last year.  I got off to a couple of rough starts Thursday and Saturday, a couple 6s on the first.

“So as I say, I’m glad to be back here.  I have no ill memories of the place at all.  I absolutely adore the golf course and it’s great to be here.”

McIlroy was fortunate to escape disqualification on his debut in 2009, when he appeared to kick sand in a bunker at the 18th in the second round but insisted he was simply smoothing footprints.

He was certainly angry, having dropped five shots on the last three holes following that closing triple bogey seven.

In 2010 he missed the cut before suffering a spectacular meltdown in 2011 when he led by four shots with a round to play and by one with nine to go before crashing to an 80.

Last year he was fourth at halfway but lost his confidence off the tee at the weekend, shot 77-76 and finished 40th alongside Tiger Woods.

Finishing second in the Texas Open in San Antonio last week has certainly boosted McIlroy’s confidence following a fraught start to the season and his stuttering adjustment to his new Nike clubs.