Padraig Harrington insists he’s not heading to Augusta National this week to make up the numbers and believes he has the game to compete after a second-placed finish at the Rapiscan System Classic on the PGA Tour Champions.
The former European Ryder Cup captain finished his week at Fallen Oak Golf Club in Biloxi, Mississippi with a superb seven-under 65 to reach 12-under-par and end the week as the best of the rest after Steven Alker ran away with it.
The New Zealander rounded off a fantastic tournament with a 67 of his own to stroll to a six-shot win at 18-under-par, his second victory on the seniors circuit.
Harrington, who started the day six shots off the lead and realistically was only playing for second place, was delighted with his finish as eight birdies and a bogey sees him taking some sparkling form to this week’s Masters Tournament.
And as he prepares to make his first drive down Magnolia Lane since 2015, the 50-year-old maintains he believes he can be competitive at the opening Major of the year.
“I’m happy to be back. I’m not going there to make up the numbers. With my head, I’m going there to play my best golf and compete and try and win, get my head in the right place,” claimed Harrington. “Physically, I can do it, so it really is just getting your head in the right place.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the change in the green on 11. Length-wise they’ve made a couple of changes. Length doesn’t bother anybody on the Tour really. If they put a dip in the right of 11, that’s going to be quite severe and difficult, I’m looking forward to that challenge, but that certainly will make that hole tough.”
There will be plenty of Irish interest at Augusta National this year, with Harrington joined in Georgia by Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and debutant Seamus Power as they all look to claim a Green Jacket for their wardrobe.
It is the latter who is drawing most of the headlines after qualifying for his first Masters, and Harrington is among those impressed by what Power has achieved since his breakthrough win at the Barbasol Championship last year.
“Seamus is a great player. The last year has been great for him. He’s believed in himself more, he’s turned that corner, he’s now very comfortable out there and contending regularly,” praised Harrington.
“I think it will be a lot to ask in his first Major, certainly first Masters to win it, maybe not to contend, but he’s got to think like he can do that. He’s got a good game, it’s just believing you belong.
“We’re going to have an Irish four-ball (in practice), for sure. Maybe more than one day.”
Harrington finished the Rapiscan System Classic strongly as a dazzling back nine consisting of five birdies saw him climb the leaderboard up into second place, his best finish thus far on the PGA Tour Champions.
He was never catching Alker, who took an early lead in his final round with two birdies on his front nine before three birdies in the first four holes of his back nine saw him stretch away and claim the title at a canter, but it was still a fine week at Fallen Oaks for the Irishman.
“I suppose today was the round I wanted yesterday,” said Harrington. “Steven Alker, he’s really pushed away there. I was hoping going out that I could shoot eight-under-par to be close enough. Was close enough to second place.
“So, look, I’m happy with the way I played. I had a good attitude, was always learning, learnt a bit from yesterday. It was a disappointing round yesterday not to shoot two- or three-under-par, but nice to come back with seven-under today.”
Meanwhile, Darren Clarke had a rough final round as a double-bogey, five bogeys and two birdies led to a five-over 77 in his final round, which saw him finish in a share of 42nd at level-par for the weekend.
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