Watching 40-somethings Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson trade punches down the stretch has only sharpened Pádraig Harrington’s appetite to become a major winner again.
The Dubliner, 44, finished in the pack on three-over after coming back from a bad start to post a one-over 72.
And with three majors in the bag and no pressure on him these days, Harrington believes he can keep going and even become the first player to win a major in his 50s.
Asked if he could see players contending regularly for majors into the 50s from now on, Harrington said: “I don’t know about a regular basis, because I don’t think anybody can win regularly at this stage. There are so many good players, but it will happen.”
When? “Well, I believe I’m going to do it,” he said. “Look, Phil ain’t slowing down in terms of his physical ability to hit the golf ball. I’m not slowing down. So as long as we don’t have those barriers people were perceived to have years ago...
“Phil doesn’t think he’s old at 46. There’s not a chance he does. Guys were retiring at 32 and 34 just before I started playing golf, and it’s not like that at all. More and more guys are fit and strong, coming up to their 50th.”
Harrington did admit he is not as energetic as he was when he was 24.
“Look, you have to do things different. When you finish a round of golf, sometimes going back to your hotel or house and sitting down for the evening is a nice thing,” he said.
“You can’t hit as many balls, for sure. But that’s not necessarily good or bad. That can work in your favour at times. You might be able to play as many tournaments.
“Travel is lovely now. Never have a problem. The front of the bus is never so bad.”
As for his golf, Harrington wasn’t beating himself up because he felt he had prepared well and simply didn’t make the putts.
“I did everything I could coming into this to get it right,” he said.
“I did everything I could during the week, so I have no regrets whatsoever. If I panicked on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and took myself out the game Thursday morning, I’d be disappointed.
“To be honest, it’s been a long time since I’ve played a major that I would have a regret that I didn’t get my preparation right. I did this week. I can’t second-guess that.”
Graeme McDowell was also off with the putter, averaging nearly 31 putts per round on greens that were too slow for his putting style.
After closing with a 76 that left him tied 63rd on 10-over, the Portrush man had mixed feelings about his week after getting a break with the weather on Friday to sneak in for the weekend.
“I struggled on the greens this week big time,” he said.
“I’m a fairly firm putter and when the greens are moving around a little bit, the holes are quite small at the speed I putt at and you have to be very, very, very accurate.
“Tee to green I’m very happy with what I’m seeing. I’ve been working hard on my ball flight and like what I’m seeing. I’ve got my cut back in the bag, which is what I’ve been working hard on.
“It didn’t really work very well this week down the back nine when you had to hit hard draws, the cut shot wasn’t ideal. But I’m happy that I’ve that shot back and was able to play the first seven or eight holes generally quite well.
“But I’m trying to take the positives out of the week. I wasn’t supposed to be playing Saturday and Sunday, so there’s no point in beating myself up.
“I’m happy with a lot of shots I’m seeing and taking some good, positive energy to next week with me.”
McDowell plays the Canadian Open this week followed by the USPGA and the Barclays, with one eye on the Ryder Cup and another on playing well in his late 30s and beyond as he prepares to become a father for the second time.
“I am not in my 40s and I have a little boy coming,” he said. “I want to hang around long enough to show him Daddy can play as opposed to Daddy could play.
“That’s my goal right now in life.”
Darren Clarke is father to two boys but he’s more concerned with being mother hen to the European Ryder Cup team.
The big Dungannon man tied for 30th on two-over after a closing 70 that was a rare sub-par round for him these days.
“I played nicely,” said the 47-year-old former Open champion after just his fourth under par round this year. “Disappointing to bogey the last there, but missed just my second shot in and stuff. But I played nicely. So all in all, pretty good.”
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