Saturday 19 January 2019

Harrington continues to play the long game ahead of KLM Open

Padraig Harrington. Photo: Getty Images
Padraig Harrington. Photo: Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Padraig Harrington has bigger fish to fry than just building on his recent runner-up finish in the Czech Republic with another big performance in this week's KLM Open.

The Dubliner (47) is looking to win as he battles to remain sharp, not just for the rest of this season, but for at least another five years so he can become golf's oldest major winner or the oldest winner on any of the main tours.

"I am the eternal optimist," Harrington told RTE Radio's Greg Allen at the weekend. "I feel great about my game. I am in a happy place with my game. I know what I need to work on and I know what I am working on.

"I feel I can win tournaments and I feel like I am a better player than ever, so in terms of winning, wouldn't it be fantastic to be the oldest player ever to win a major? Wouldn't it be fantastic to be able to win in your 50s on tour?"

He will have to wait until 2020 to overtake Julius Boros, who was 48 when he won the 1968 US PGA at the age of 48.

And while it will take until January 2022 to surpass Miguel Ángel Jiménez as the oldest winner on the European Tour at 50, or until 2024 to beat Sam Snead's record as the oldest PGA Tour winner at 52, simply being the oldest swinger in town is not enough.

He's certainly not counting down the days before he becomes eligible for the senior tours in 2021, but focusing on reproducing the kind of form he showed in the Czech Masters two weeks ago, when he was overtaken by fast-finishing Italian Andrea Pavan.

"I want to be able to win," he told Saturday Sport. "I want to be competitive. If I don't feel I am competitive, yes I will move towards the senior tour.

"But on the Champions Tour in the States, they shoot 20 under for three rounds. That's not easy. You have got to hole putts and play really well.

"Realistically, goals for me are trying to be the oldest player to win a major and win in my fifties on the main tours and even trying to be the oldest player to win on a main tour. That's the sort of longevity I am looking forward to."

Harrington makes his second consecutive appearance at The Dutch hoping to improve on last year's tied 55th-place finish. He also wants to go one better than he did in Prague.

"Two weeks off can be good and bad - it's nice to have a rest and to get some practice going," he said yesterday. "I was very happy with my game all of the way through which was very solid."

He's joined in the Netherlands by Paul Dunne, who has two top-20 finishes in-a-row at the venue but comes into the event seeking form after missing his last two cuts.

Meanwhile, the Kazakhstan Open offers Michael Hoey (ranked 27), Ruaidhri McGee (52), Cormac Sharvin (61), Gavin Moynihan (78), Jonathan Caldwell (81) and Gary Hurley (107) a golden opportunity to secure their European Tour cards.

Whoever takes home the €72,000 top prize in the third richest event on the Challenge Tour schedule will leap straight into the top 15 in the money list and gain promotion to the main tour at the end of the season.

Irish Independent

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