Considering the venue, it might be more apt to say that he escaped his very own Bermuda Triangle. Winless for two years and fragile with the blade, the 41-year-old Dubliner stood over his par-saving effort on the picturesque but treacherous, par-3 16th in the final round of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf knowing he just had to hole it.
A turquoise blue sea lapped the cliffs to his right as he tried to ignore that fact as his wife had just been interviewed at greenside about his impending victory. Bad karma.
Yes, he was three shots clear of Webb Simpson but there was still work to be done. As he confessed afterwards at the trophy presentation, he was tempted to walk over and stop the interview.
“I almost wanted to say, ‘don’t spend it yet Caroline’!”
The putt dropped, of course, and Harrington went on to end the second longest drought of his career.
This year he has put the horrors of 2011 well and truly behind him and had his putter not still been thawing out after 18 months in the deep freeze, he might have won the Masters or the US Open, or both.
His putting inside three or four feet has made excruciating viewing for the past few years and he admits there is still much work to be done in that area.
Harrington fans are often maddened by his propensity for turning impending triumph into disaster but there is no sense in expecting him to change that trait as he completes his 16th season as a professional. He will always put his neck on the block and take his chances.
Confidence is everything in golf and Harrington confessed that winning the PGA Grand Slam will do him nothing but good going forward. Fear and nerves have always been his friends and they were there for him this week.
“I hit it left on the range and on every tee shot I was afraid of hitting it left and hit a lot of shots right,” he said. “But I really was happy about the fact that when I got into it, the old fight was there.
“I holed a couple of important putts when I needed to hole them and I haven’t been putting so well. Particularly that one on 16. I was chuffed with that.”
Ranked 57th in the world — he was as low as 96th before Augusta — he was too far away from the automatic places to warrant a Ryder Cup pick. Who could blame Jose Maria Olazabal for not picking a man who is ranked 185th out of 190 for putts holed between three and five feet this year? Yes, he missed a few in Bermuda but the overall picture is promising when it comes to any statistical analysis of Harrington’s game.
He hits the ball further and straighter and finds more greens in regulation now than he did when he captured the third of his Major wins in 2008.
Ranked first in the putts per round and one-putt percentage categories on the PGA Tour in 2008, he slipped to 24th and 55th respectively last year. Despite his problems on the short putts, he is back to ninth and 10th in those putting categories this season.
When Harrington had that run of 22 second place finishes, it appeared that he was destined never to win again. But like buses, his wins all came together, culminating in three Major wins in 13 months.
Stuck at the bus stop for the last few years, he hasn’t stopped changing.
“I was changing before my Major wins. The only difference is that these changes have been made more in the spotlight,” Harrington said this week. “The one thing that hasn’t changed is me, as in, I’ll keep changing.”
Putter permitting, there are compelling reasons to feel optimistic about Harrington as a Major contender again. “I feel there’s another peak around the corner.”