Saturday 24 August 2019

'Tom Watson was 59 when he should have won it' - Padraig Harrington likes his chances of becoming oldest 'winner' in town

Padraig Harrington. Photo: Sportsfile
Padraig Harrington. Photo: Sportsfile

Brian Keogh

Pádraig Harrington might be 180/1 for the Claret Jug but he's got more than one Major reason to back him to become the oldest Open champion in history - "I'm a winner!"

Old Tom Morris was 46 years and 102 days when he won The Open for the third time at Prestwick in 1867. But the Dubliner will be 47 years, 10 months, 21 days old if he claims his third Open title on the Dunluce Links on Sunday and knows he's worth a flutter for three simple reasons.

"Well, I've won it twice," he said. "I've prepared properly, and I'm a winner. There you go. Three's enough. Problem is if I won this week, it wouldn't be an end. It'd be a start."

While he can play in the Open until he's 60 and might have achieved almost everything in his career, Harrington's love of the game keeps him grinding for more.

"I'll tell you this," he said. "I hit a putt last week on the 15th hole in Scotland, and it genuinely gave me a sense of joy in my soul. That's how much I love golf. It was a thing of beauty.

"I three-putted as it turned out. It lipped out, and I missed the one back. But the first putt gave me a sense of peace... joy... an absolutely deep down feeling in my soul. Why wouldn't you do that?"

He warned punters before the Irish Open to save their cash for this week and promptly fired an eight-under 63 to take the lead, remarking afterwards: "Whenever I step on a links golf course, I am going to be good value and going forward, only a fool would discount me on a links course."

He's now looking to go where no man has gone before on the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, and after watching Tom Watson being denied at Turnberry at the age of 59 a decade ago, he dares to dream.

"If I want to look at age, Tom Watson was 59 when he should have won it," he said. "I won't say I was as good as Tom Watson, but I've 11 years on him, and I'll take my chances."

Of Watson's bounce through the 18th green in Turnberry when he needed par to win and bogeyed before losing in a play-off to Stewart Cink, Harrington said: "It was probably one of the unluckiest things I've ever seen in golf. He hit the perfect second shot to 18, and it bounced in the middle of the green on a downslope. If it bounced either side, it was up."

 He's rated as much as 200-1 to win here and the 1251-1 to be the first-round leader. But after defying similar odds to lead on day one at Lahinch, he's feeling good.

"Someone got me at 80/1 to lead after the first round at Lahinch," he said. "A local politician and a whole pub of people.

"The local politician told me he backed me and then another fella said he was in a pub, and everyone had backed me, and there was free drink for the night."

After breaking his wrist at  Christmas and making just four cuts from nine starts this year, he knows he's going to have to produce some vintage golf.

"Nobody gives you anything in golf," he said. "You can sit there and wish for so many things. You could have a six-shot lead after three days… nobody gives you anything. You've got to go play it."

Meanwhile, Tommy Fleetwood's coach Graham Walker believes golf must do more to "embrace" those who enjoy the game but do not have time for 18 holes if it is to reverse its long-term participation decline.

Walker is determined to get the message out that you do not need to be a member of a club or have an official handicap card to consider yourself a golfer.

"Golf is a great way to really switch off and forget about work or whatever else is causing you stress," he said.

"We know that not everyone has four or five hours to play a full round, but there are so many different ways to play the game now. You could spend 30 minutes on the range or an indoor simulator, work on your short game with a bit of pitch and putt, or go for a quick six.

"If that's all you have time for, or want to do, so be it. Let's embrace that and call those people golfers as well."

Irish Independent

The Left Wing: The 'hell' of World Cup training camp, Ireland's half-back dilemma and All Blacks uncertainty

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport