Masters magic for Pádraig Harrington

Few people believe that Pádraig Harrington can win a fourth major but averaging 25 putts per day and shooting the lowest winning aggregate of his 21-year professional career to claim the Portugal Masters, writing him off now would be the height of folly.

Masters magic for Pádraig Harrington

The 45-year old Dubliner insisted just minutes after the Ryder Cup ended three weeks ago that he wants to play in 2018 in Paris rather than captain Europe.

He clearly has unfinished business on tour and after a six under par 65 that featured a devastating display of short-game brilliance and an eye-popping performance with the putter, it may be a while before he’s ready to hang up his spikes and reach for the keys to the captain’s buggy.

Three up-and-downs on the last three holes gave Harrington a one-shot win over current Ryder Cup player Andy Sullivan, the defending champion, on 23 under par.

And he insisted afterwards that while the course was right up his street — light rough and receptive greens allowing him the freedom to shoot at every pin with impunity, given his short game sharpness — it was the mental game that made the difference.

“I was in a nice place mentally,” Harrington insisted.

“I’ve been reading Dave Alred’s The Pressure Principle and it gave me a few pointers that maybe I’d been missing out on and I stuck to those all week.

“I just realised how poor my own language is about myself and my game.

“So I was very focused on my self-talk this week and what I was saying to myself, and very focused on my posture and it was a tremendous help.”

The full title of the book is, ‘The Pressure Principle: Handle Stress, Harness Energy, and Perform When It Counts’ and Harrington certainly did that at Vilamoura’s Victoria Clube de Golfe.

It might have been The K Club or Fota Island, given the huge Irish presence for a final round that saw the three-time major winner go out just a shot behind co-leaders Anders Hansen of Denmark and Finn Mikko Korhonen.

“I’ve been coming here since 1990 with the GUI,” Harrington said of those early coaching trips with Howard Bennett.

“There are a lot of Irish connections and Irish fans here, so it’s a place I’ve always felt comfortable and enjoyed coming to.”

With Michael Hoey losing his Tour card and Paul Dunne missing the cut but keeping his card with €10,000 to spare, Irish fans flocked to cheer on Harrington over the weekend.

He loved the attention.

“The atmosphere, the cheering, the bit of buzz I was getting — I haven’t been getting that because I’m not on the top of the leaderboard as much — it was nice to get it this week and have that support,” Harrington said “I was watching it today, grown men and women running around to get in the right place so that they could cheer you on.”

The veteran started slowly and while he birdied the second and seventh, he had to hole a bunker shot for birdie at the 11th to get within one shot of the Hansen, who eventually finished two behind in third after a cold putter forced him to settle for a 68.

Defending champion Sullivan turned out to be the man to beat, carding a 65 in the penultimate group to set the target at 22 under par. But Harrington showed all his old fighting qualities and displaying the mesmeric short game skills of old.

After holing that bunker shot at the 11th to get to within one of the lead, he birded 12 and 14 to take the lead and never looked back.

A missed green meant nothing, so confident did he feel in his putting and after getting up and down for par at the 16th and for birdie at the 17th, he did it again for a winning par at the 18th, calmly holing a five footer for the 31st win of his professional career.

“My putting has turned the corner recently,” said Harrington, whose had just 100 putts for the week, holing out four times from off the green.

“I don’t think I failed to get up-and-down at all this week, and had three chip-ins and a holed bunker shot.

“When I go back and look at my stats for scrambling this week, I would say I was better than 100%.” His dream now is to get back to Augusta for the Masters and he must now decided how best to get back into the world’s Top 50.

Up to 43rd from 95th in the Race to Dubai thanks to his winner’s cheque for €333,330, he’s set to jump from 159th to around 96th in the world but must now decide between finishing the season in Europe or the US, where a win between now and April would write a ticket to Augusta.

“I have to figure out what’s my best chance of getting in there,” he said. “I have three more events now.”

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