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After a lifetime looking head, Harrington happy to reflect as Hall of Fame induction approaches – News – Irish Golf Desk


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Pádraig Harrington spent the bulk of his career practising for a far-off tomorrow that would never come. But he’s determined to live in the moment next Monday when he becomes just the third Irishman to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

The three-time Major champion (52) will be introduced by his son Paddy but rather than feeling like he’s attending his own funeral, Harrington is treating it like a wedding — a celebration — and will take time out from his lifelong habit of always looking ahead to celebrate his own success. 

“There’s a quote by Bob Torrance, he always said it to me as I was going to the range, ‘These are the happiest days of your life’ which basically means not yesterday, not tomorrow, today is the happiest day and you’ve got to make the most of it, and 100%, this is something to enjoy,” he said..

“I’m not getting into another Hall of Fame, I’m not going to have the same successes on the golf course that I had in the past, there’s nothing there. So why not enjoy this and take this moment to enjoy it.”

Next Monday’s ceremony will be broadcast on Golf Channel and Harrington has been told to keep his speech to just eight minutes.

“It is very tight,” he said with a grin. “I am somewhat hoping eight was their first offer.”

He wants to thank everyone who has helped him throughout his career, tell stories about them and entertain the guests at Pinehurst.

But whatever about his desire to sound a note of gratitude to those who have helped him on his way, Harrington is allowing himself time to reflect on a storied career.  

“I’ve said this all along. When you’re in your career, and you win tournaments, and you receive awards and accolades, you always assume they’re going to be there, and you’re going to keep winning, you always think there’s going to be another one.

“You go through the motions a lot of the time, brush over them, and maybe don’t enjoy them the way you should at the time. 

“So by getting into the Hall of Fame it brings a lot of emotions. Validation, no doubt about it. Satisfaction, no doubt about it. And they were the first emotions, 100%.

“It’s a deep-set satisfaction that I’ve done it and I’ve done well, it’s marked now. But as the weeks went on and it’s a couple of years now (since I was nominated), there’s certainly a sense of joy that I get to enjoy all these past glories again and maybe take it in more than I might have done 20 years ago.”

Harrington will be remembered by many as the man who broke open the floodgates to a series of major wins for Irish and European golf when he overcame disaster on the 72nd hole at Carnoustie and ended a 60-year wait for major glory in the 2007 Open Championship.

He’s been the perfect ambassador for the game in terms of his integrity as a sportsman and his willingness to give back.

But while he understands he’s not in the Hall of Fame for those things but for winning two Claret Jugs and the PGA Championship in a magical 386-day run from July 2007 to August 2008, he sees his career as the perfect progression.

It’s a journey that arguably began when he met the GUI’s National Coach Howard Bennett as a 15-year-old in 1986 and quoted verse 27:17 from the Book of Proverbs to his first real mentor.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another,” he said, promising to do everything he was told to get better and become the ultimate competitor.  A winner.

“There’s only one reason a professional golfer gets into the Hall of Fame and that’s his performance,” he said. “There’s no other reason.  It’s purely down to results.

“What would I like to be remembered for as a golfer? I hope to be remembered as someone who was a competitor, as someone who loved the game of golf, loved the rules, the etiquette. These things don’t get you into the Hall of Fame. Being fastidious about rules is not going to get you into the Hall of Fame.

“This is my personality. Being a doer, someone who tries, someone who’s competitive. Being as tough as can be, but fair. I feel like I was a tough competitor. I feel like my competitors believe that. I always wanted to be tougher, but I wanted to be very, very fair in the way I played and let my clubs do the talking.

“I’d like to be the guy you don’t want to play against in a play-off.  That guy that makes them say,  ‘You know what? I’d rather not be in a play-off with him, he’s likely to do anything to win.’ Somebody’s who’s prepared to really compete and dig deep.”

Success is not a straight line in professional sport but Harrington’s career has followed an almost uncanny upward curve. As he passed each stage, he grew in confidence, culminating in those three major wins.

“Deep down I wanted to win majors,” he said. “I definitely didn’t want to win one major. I was really scared of that one. And I’ve looked at players who’ve won one; it becomes a burden in their career, and it’s only when they get to retire they get to enjoy it. It can never be taken away from them.

“I always wanted that second one. I got the third one pretty quickly. In my head, there was that factor, two was brilliant. Maybe the third one was a bonus. I can’t say I could have sat back in 2000 and said I should win five or six majors. 

“When you look at the modern era of golf, I’m tied 30th all-time in major wins. They just don’t come around as quickly as you think. I’m happy to have got my three. No doubt, they’ve got me in the Hall of Fame.”

After winning at the Boys’, Youths’, and Senior levels as an amateur, Harrington didn’t want to turn pro without winning a Walker Cup, and he achieved that dream in 1995.

The following year, he won the Spanish Open in just his tenth tour start, then moved to Bob Torrance and began a swing rebuild that Paul McGinley reckons was far more drastic and important than Nick Faldo’s.

He agrees he’s “up there” in the list of golfers who outworked the rest on the range, which he felt was a place that gave him the chance to renew his hope in the future.

“The only thing that stops me hitting more shots (these days) is the pain of it,” he said. “So look, it’s what I enjoy. There’s a beautiful hope value in golf. It’s one of the things that I’m lucky that I have.  

“The minute I start hitting shots, no matter how bad yesterday went, if I lost the tournament or whatever, the minute I start hitting shots, I find myself in this beautiful place of opportunity and hope that I’m just looking forward and I love it. I love that end of things.

“I know at my age, I can’t do it. But I still go out to try and find the secret every day. And, you know, I sometimes say. ‘What else would I do? But in actual fact, it’s exactly what I want to do.”

When it comes to his significant wins outside the majors, he ranks the 1997 World Cup with McGinley just a shade ahead of the 2007 Irish Open in Adare, which was the last piece of the puzzle he needed to put in place before winning at Carnoustie. 

“I couldn’t have drawn up my graph better for how I kept moving along,” he said of his career path. 

“It was kind of textbook when you look at it but you’re right, the Irish Open was definitely up there with the World Cup. The Irish Open was a really big deal, but the World Cup, I think, took both myself and Paul by surprise in the sense of how well it was taken home. It was big news. And the fact you share it with somebody makes all the difference. And it was so big for us at the time. And it was $200,000. Wow, it was colossal. Colossal.  

“As McGinley always said, I built the room in his house. He got an extra room in the house because of the winnings. He said I could always come and stay there.”

He reckons he’s had some 40 runner-up finishes in his career from boys’ golf to the PGA Tour Champions. But he has no regrets.

Yes, he might have won another Major or two — the 2002 Open at Muirfield, the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot when he needed three pars to win, the 2009 PGA, the 2012 US Open at Olympic Club and several more— but believes each of those disappointments made him a better player.

“I’ve no regrets in that sense,” he said. “Everything that I did, right or wrong, led to me becoming who I am in golf. Certainly, I would do things differently, but it’s not a regret.”

He’s thrilled his eldest son Paddy, the kid who ran on the green after his 72nd hole disaster at Carnoustie but later asked if they could put ladybirds in the Claret Jug, has volunteered to make his introductory speech on Monday.

“He’s not so young now, 20 years of age,” Harrington said. “He really wanted to do it. I was delighted that he wanted to do it. He feels it’s his responsibility to do it so I’m quite chuffed about that. I haven’t interfered with his speech whatsoever so I have no idea what he’s going to say. But it’s his responsibility now. He wanted it.”
While his mother, Breda, will be watching from home, he’ll be surrounded by family and friends.

For a man who has a reputation for changing, he’s proud of the many constants in his life.  McGinley and Des Smyth were big influences on his early career, as important as Bennett, Torrance, his strength and conditioning coach, Dr Liam Hennessy and his psychologist, Dr Bob Rotella.
His wife, Caroline, has been a rock, but there are more constants.

“The one thing about my golf career, which is ironic as I have always been stereotyped as somebody who changes and yet I never change,” he said. “I’ve had the same manager 30 years, same caddie twenty-something years, club manufacturer 26 years, accountant 30 years. I have the same everything.

“Everything I stick with a long time, but sometimes they say ‘you changed everything after 2007, 2008,’ which I didn’t. I played better in 2009 and 2010, I just didn’t have the wins.”

He has no ambition to seek redemption for Whistling Straits and seeks the 2027 Ryder Cup captaincy at Adare Manor but still dreams of winning.

“It was always a one-and-done when it came to the Ryder Cup,” he said. “We would all love to have a second go, but I have not been pitching for that in any shape or form. Give somebody else a go. It really is a great honour to be a Ryder Cup captain.”

Monday will be a big day but come Tuesday, he will be back at it despite the ever-growing list of niggles from his neck and elbow to his knees, which forced him to sit out US Open qualifying for Pinehurst next week.

“I feel excited about my game, as I always do,” he said. “When I’m practising I feel really excited. I’ll play the Scottish Open and The Open and I’m still hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.

“Yeah, I like my game, I’m keen on my game, I keep working on my game and I’m excited for the new lease of life I got from the Champions Tour… I’m excited for the summer. I love the idea of the opportunity going out there and there’s still plenty of fun to be hand on the golf course.” 

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