ST ANDREWS // Of all the big hitters checking into the "home of golf" for the 150th anniversary of the British Open, none is more overdue a victory than Padraig Harrington, the three-time major champion from the Republic of Ireland. When the genial Dubliner captured the last of that trio of majors at the end of a 15-month purple patch nearly two years ago, he had the golfing world at his feet and had his sights set on catching Seve Ballesteros (five) and Nick Faldo (six) as Europe's most decorated modern-era performers.
How the mighty have fallen, though. Apart from what has become a routine success in the Irish PGA championship, which he won for the sixth time last year, Harrington has endured a barren spell that he is determined to bring to an end. After completing a practice round in advance of his 14th Open challenge on Thursday, Harrington said: "I'm sure that when I was looking for my first big success if somebody had told me that I was going to win three I would have said 'thank you very much - I'll take that'.
"But now, having won three, it's all about just one more. That's human nature, I suppose. Having that desire is what has got me to my major titles and now it is the same desire that makes me want to push on for more. "I've won plenty of tournaments over the years and with many of them I have just gone back to my hotel room and thought 'so what?' "But it is not like that in a major. Nobody has enjoyed celebrating a major win more than me and when you enjoy it as much as that you want to go out there and win another one."
Harrington, who stressed the need to be relaxed whenever one of the big four honours is up for grabs, was delighted to be informed that he will play the first two rounds with Tom Watson, 60, the grand old man of golf who went so memorably close to lifting the famous Claret Jug for the sixth time last year. With Ryo Ishikawa, the 18-year-old Japanese protégé, joining Watson and Harrington on the first tee at 9.20 on Thursday morning, Harrington enthused about the pairings.
He said: "Ryo is a phenomenal talent. I have not played with him yet so I'm looking forward to that. I see him as a young version of Tom Watson. He plays without fear just as Tom does. That's a tremendous attitude." Harrington, 38, was asked whether he thought he, too, could be contending for major titles at Watson's age. "Physically you can keep it going," he said, "but mentally it gets harder after 20 years or so involving getting up at 4 o'clock in the morning to warm-up for early tee times.
"Tom seems to have got a second wind for dealing with that kind of thing. "He has a great attitude towards the game at the moment which is wonderful to see. email@example.com