Open champion Padraig Harrington was on Tuesday named the European Tour Golfer of the Year for 2007 – and then showed he is taking nothing for granted in 2008.
Harrington thinks next September’s Ryder Cup side under Nick Faldo in Kentucky will be the usual mixture of new and old.
He said: “The only thing I’ve got to make sure of is that I’m in there as one of the elder statesmen.
“There’s plenty of work still to be done to get into that team (he is currently 13th in the standings) and like any player I’ll be anxious to get myself in early rather than late – you don’t want to be sweating about it.”
The 36-year-old, whose second son Ciaran was born on November 24, lost out for the Golfer of the Year award to Ryder Cup team-mate Paul Casey last year despite winning the Order of Merit.
However, this time he has won the vote of a panel of writers and commentators ahead of US Open champion Angel Cabrera and new European number one Justin Rose.
The Dubliner ended Europe’s eight-year barren spell in the majors when he beat Sergio Garcia in a play-off at Carnoustie in July.
No Irishman had lifted the Claret Jug since Fred Daly in 1947 and Harrington was the first ever from the Republic.
During the season he also became the first home winner of the Irish Open since John O’Leary in 1982.
“There were a couple of other wins in there, so it is really nice for it all to be recognised at the end of the season by being named the European Tour Golfer of the Year, an award I will treasure,” said Harrington, who is in California this week for the Target World Challenge.
“Accolades like this are very rewarding, especially as time passes and it is a great reminder of what a great year 2007 was.
“There are obviously lots of things that happened this year that made it very special, starting with the birth of Ciaran, but following not too far behind was winning the Open Championship.
“Going out on the Sunday I was six shots behind (Garcia), but I knew second place was six under par and I had to get past that to give myself a chance. I knew one or two of us on three under par would go out and play well that day.
“When I birdied the 11th I got the feeling from the crowd that something was happening. I don’t look at leaderboards, but when my caddie got me to lay up off the tee on the 14th I knew that meant I was right in contention because he would have got me to hit driver if I was chasing a bit more.
“Then, when I eagled the 14th, that was the first time in the whole round that I really had to calm down. When I knocked the putt in I casually raised my hand to acknowledge the crowd, but inside I was flying and it was a big effort to just calm down.”
What he did not know was that Argentina’s Andres Romero had gone into the lead, but his double bogey, bogey finish put Harrington one ahead on the last tee.
“Then, of course, I was in the water twice on the 18th. I felt really embarrassed at the time, but I don’t feel so bad about it now because I can look back at all the circumstances of the shots.
“It was nice that I recovered afterwards and don’t have to beat up myself too much about it (a pitch to four feet salvaged a six and avoided the triple bogey which Jean Van de Velde had suffered on the course in 1999).
“It would have done me a lot of harm if I hadn’t won, but that’s not the case and there is a positive there that next time in a similar situation I will have memories that I can play the final hole not perfectly and still win.
“Winning the Irish Open was another big one too. In my eyes it’s the fifth major. It’s my national event and when I get there it’s incredibly hyped up and there’s loads of expectation and pressure.”
Cabrera’s victory came a month before Carnoustie and meant that for the first time two European Tour players did the double of US Open and Open.
“Undoubtedly Angel had a great year too,” added Harrington. “He played some great golf at the US Open and his triumph there (holding off Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk) was probably one of the most spectacular wins of the year.
“I remember watching it and I suppose it was all summed up by him sitting in the Oakmont locker room waiting for the guys to finish the last couple of holes.”