Friday 30 September 2016

Harrington out to defy miles on clock

Published 10/03/2016 | 02:30

It was a welcome reminder to critics and indeed, fellow players, that Harrington is still a force to be reckoned with if he can get into contention on the back nine on Sunday (Chris Condon/PGA Tour)
It was a welcome reminder to critics and indeed, fellow players, that Harrington is still a force to be reckoned with if he can get into contention on the back nine on Sunday (Chris Condon/PGA Tour)

Padraig Harrington is keen to savour that elusive but exhilarating winning feeling again.

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If he has his way, the three-time Major champion will be adding to his tally of tournament victories up to the age of 50 and beyond.

The memories are still fresh of that playoff triumph over Daniel Berger in the 2015 Honda Classic.

It was a welcome reminder to critics and indeed, fellow players, that Harrington is still a force to be reckoned with if he can get into contention on the back nine on Sunday.

Satisfying as it was to raise the silverware aloft in victory on that occasion, the 44-year-old Irishman hopes for more.

Tour stats show that his ambitions can be realised, albeit that he would have to join a very exclusive club of champions to beat the age barrier which broadly defines winners on the American circuit.

Since the beginning of the 2010 season, 76 golfers aged from 36-44 (approx 27 per cent), have won PGA Tour events.

The most recent champion in that category is Bubba Watson who won the Northern Trust Open at age 37.

Adam Scott, 35, who annexed the Honda Classic and WGC-Cadillac Championship titles in quick succession, falls into the largest category of 162 winners (57 per cent) since 2010 aged from 26-35.

But there is plenty of hope for Harrington and the other elders who remain competitive on Tour.

US Ryder Cup captain Davis Love 111 won the 2015 Wyndham Championship aged 51, and Rocco Mediate, beaten in a playoff by Tiger Woods in the 2008 US Open, was 48 years old when he claimed the Frys.Com Open in 2010.

Harrington has plenty of time before he needs to contemplate the Champions Tour where life can begin again for the guys who reach 50.

"Physically I haven't lost anything, so it's a question of mentally being there. I think I can do well, but a lot will come down to the putting.

"I will be playing golf, for sure (at 50) but the thought of winning a regular event when I'm over 50 is a far greater goal. That would be motivation for me," he said.

Part of the reason for that ambition is the challenge and the difficulty of actually beating the field in any tournament on the PGA Tour.

"It's very hard to win in the States.

"I feel it's harder to win a regular event than it is to win a major. The standard is very high, it's very deep and in a regular event, it's like a 100-metre sprint.

"When I played last in Europe (fully) say in 2004, I might have played 24 genuine events on the European Tour.

"I probably would have been in contention in a dozen of them. In the States you could have a good year and you might be in contention in four.

"I don't want to go back, but I have considered the idea that, you know what, a smaller pond might be a better place to build up the winning feeling again.

"But it's hard to step away from the US tour when you're there because life is pretty good on it," he said.

Harrington's immediate priority is to make a solid start in the first round of the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort today.

This course has good memories for Harrington, who shot a course record 61 in round one of what was then the Transitions Championship in 2012.

He is joined by fellow Irish Major winners Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell in a star-studded field headed by defending champion Jordan Spieth.

The world number one got off the mark in style by winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. Since then his game has stuttered somewhat, finishing 21st, missing cut, and 17th place in his last three outings.

Despite that, Spieth is favourite.

Valspar Championship, Live, Sky Sports 4, 8.00pm

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