PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON could not be in a better frame of mind as he heads into this year’s most lucrative tournament in the form to walk off with the PGA Tour’s biggest prize.
After turning round what had been a pretty miserable 2009 season with five successive top-10 finishes since relinquishing his Open Championship title at Turnberry in July, the Irishman will go into tomorrow’s FedEx Cup finale at the Tour Championship in East Lake, Georgia, brimming with confidence that a first victory of the year can come at the most opportune moment.
There is not just a cheque for $1.35 million (€912,000) on offer to the winner of this 30-man event, featuring the top players from the season-long FedEx points rankings but also a $10m (€6.7m) bonus.
“I’m happy to be here,” Harrington said last night. “Obviously I could turn around a year, really, this week. The last couple of weeks have been good. I’ve been pushing for a win, and obviously this would be a big week to get that win.
“We’ve turned what was less than an average year up until, say, August into a great year.”
If any of the top five in the standings — led by Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson and Heath Slocum — win this weekend they are guaranteed to walk away from East Lake with the FedEx Cup and the mega bonus.
To collect the riches from sixth place in the FedEx standings and following a reset in the points following the BMW Championship two weeks ago, Harrington must win at East Lake and see Woods finish in third place or worse.
Having been the only man in the field this week to have recorded a top-10 win at each of the three FedEx Cup play-off events, Harrington insisted just a victory would do him at the end of a trying year in the US which saw him miss six cuts between February and June.
“I don’t regret being number six because I did what I could,” the three-time major winner said. “I don’t feel like I left too many shots behind me or anything like that.
“It isn’t in my control. Obviously the first five, they win the outright FedEx Cup. If you win, I have to rely on another player not finishing second behind Tiger, so it’s not going to be quite the same thing.
“But if I’m coming down the stretch and I’m playing against Tiger, it’s not like I’m not going to be trying to win the tournament. If the FedEx Cup wasn’t on the line, I’d still be trying to win the tournament.
“It shouldn’t make any difference to my performance or my play, but yes, if I was clear and winning the tournament comfortably, let’s say, I would spend a lot of time looking at the leaderboard more than where Tiger was because obviously it affects whether I win the FedEx Cup.
“I’m in as good as position as I can be. I played good golf in the three weeks. As I said, I don’t feel like I left anything behind. So six is as good as I could have done, and I’ll be happy to see if I can get that win this week.”
Meanwhile having won the British Open in 2007 and 2008, Harrington just cannot seem to be able to let go of that auld Claret Jug.
Succeeded by Stewart Cink at Turnberry in July, he decided not to wait another 12 months to get his hands on it again and on Tuesday at East Lake reclaimed the trophy.
“He can’t find his trophy,” Harrington said with a chuckle. “He put his Open trophy down and I hid it on him. It’s in my locker.”
The American was bemused but quickly saw the funny side.
“I couldn’t find it,” Cink said. “Harrington, I guess he only had it for two years, so he wanted to have it just a little bit longer.”
Cink thought a PGA Tour official had taken it to use in a TV interview.
“I looked in my locker and saw that the jug was gone, so I assumed they had it and put it on their set. I said, ‘So you guys already have the Claret Jug’. And they said, ‘No’.
“Then the locker room attendant came over, and he said, ‘I think Mr Harrington played a joke on you’.”
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