Harrington: ‘I kind of knew I was going to make it hard’

A COUPLE of hours after his victory in the Irish Open, Padraig Harrington was signing autographs for admirers when a lady asked him if he was going back to Dublin.

Quick as a flash, he replied: “I have a wife in the clubhouse and she will decide. I may be Irish Open champion, but nothing changes decisions like that.”

The crowd loved it, of course, and when Harrington was finally free to join his wife, Caroline; his mother, Breda; his caddie, Ronan Flood, and his wife, Suzie (a sister of Caroline); and several other members of the family, they left wholesome in their praise for a consummate golfer and genuine nice guy.

The 23,150 people who brought the number of spectators for the week to more than 60,000 had enjoyed an occasion they will never forget, even if their hero gave them countless anxious moments. The point was not lost on Harrington himself.

“I knew it was never going to be easy”, he admitted. “I had it in my head that it was quite possible I would lose my lead at some point. But I still felt I had a good chance and I was confident about winning. And I kind of knew I was going to make it hard. I was amazed with the course set-up that somebody didn’t go really low, that somebody didn’t shoot the lights out because it certainly was on.”

One of Harrington’s great strengths is his course management and for the most part yesterday it was exemplary. However, the one moment when he might have got it wrong came at the 17th when he was two ahead of Bradley Dredge and in the centre of the fairway with the Welshman in thick rough. Dredge played a wonder shot to two feet from the flag for a definite birdie. It caused Harrington to try and match it when it seemed a lot more sensible to play for the middle of the green, settle for par and always with the chance of birdie.

“When he hit it close at 17, it forced me to go more aggressively down the green,” said Harrington. “I overshot the green and was no more than 18 feet from the hole but in a foot of rough. Maybe I should have gone for the middle of the green. But he played very well, he certainly put the pressure on me.”

When Harrington ran away with the JP McManus pro-am at Adare in 2005, he was loud in his praise of the golf course and the fans and he now sees no reason to change his view.

“The crowds were fantastic”, he glowed. “The venue lends itself to big crowds and I’m sure those who came today had a great time. When Munster play rugby, they are known for having the best support in the world and obviously those same Munster fans turned out today. No question about it, they were second to none and gave me a boost when things weren’t going so well.”

Padraig moves on this week to the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in line for the €1 million bonus put up by Adare owner Tom Kane for the player who adds that title to the Irish Open. Harrington’s dislike for the Burma Road is well documented and he also believes he is likely to be flat after all the excitement of Adare. But he has given himself and his supporters added confidence that even bigger things may lie in wait either at Oakmont, Pittsburg, in the US Open next month or at Carnoustie for the Open Championship in July.

So much to savour after Adare . . . and so much to look forward to.

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