For Padraig Harrington to become the oldest winner on the DP World Tour it would mean much more for him to win in the position he currently enjoys with a round to play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship to win, than as he says, ‘out of the blue somewhere else’.
Harrington had easily the biggest following over the three days, posting a sizzling eight-under-par 64 and storming his way into the clubhouse lead at 12-under in glorious conditions on the host Yas Links course.
The efforts from 51-year-old Harrington, who won an incredible four times on last year’s over-50s Champions Tour, immediately has most people checking who is the oldest winner on the DP World Tour.
Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez holds the record as the oldest winner on the DP World Tour, aged 50 years and 133 days when he defeated Richard Green and Thomas Pieters on the first hole of a sudden-death play-off to win the 2014 Spanish Open at PGA Catalunya Resort.
Harrington was born on 31st August, 1971 and would surpass Jimenez’s effort by just 11 days should he accomplish victory in the UAE capital.
Harrington last won on the DP World Tour in capturing a 15th Tour victory at the 2016 Portugal Masters, and he was asked what it would mean if he won again.
“It would mean an awful lot to me to become the oldest winner. If I went and won right now, I actually think it would mean something totally different,” he said.
“It would mean that I am actually competitive. You know, if I go and win out of the blue somewhere and steal a win, that’s nice. I can put it down on my C.V. as the oldest winner. But if I come into tournaments talking a big game and deliver, that means I’m a player again with the young guys, and it would be other goals I would be seeking out, not just a sort of random sneaky win at my age”.
Harrington looked to be in his element leaving he course to be mobbed for autographs in the walk to the scorer’s hut and then delighting in undertaking TV, radio and newspaper interviews.
That’s not to say Harrington is not giving of his time with the media, it’s just that he was akin to a kid in a candy store just loving the post-round attention knowing he is very much in the mix for victory.
“It might mean a lot more to my fellow Champions Tour players if I won”, he said. “I could see myself chasing my tail all year and trying to get a win on the regular tour. It’s an interesting place I’m at. I’m curious to see where I established myself in the game at the moment.
“I believe I’m better than I’ve ever been but that doesn’t mean it’s a fact or true. We’ll see. I’m not going to put myself under too much stress but it’s nice.
“As I said. It’s nice. I felt like I left an awful lot of shots out there. Certainly my first 27 holes this week, and then I hit a wall when I was on the cut line and then I relaxed again today and played some lovely golf. It could have been plenty better today but maybe even today, what kick started my round, I chipped in from a difficult place on the sixth hole, got a couple of bad breaks, and all of a sudden, I chip-in and make birdie, and that can be the catalyst. You can be surprised.
“The caddies are out there telling us to try and be patient and wait for our turn, and it’s going to turn around but you do need to see it around the odd time in order to believe that story”.
Harrington added his 64 was a best score on the Tour since a 63 he shot whilst in Australia contesting the co-sanctioned Heineken Classic at the Vines course in suburban Perth.
“It stayed as the course record at the Vines, it could even still be, for years,” said Harrington smiling. “I know it was there for 10, 15 years. I played with Andrew Coltart and — I don’t mean, I can’t believe I’m telling you this story.
Anyway, the third guy told a joke on every hole. Myself and Andrew pitched in with a few jokes and on the 18th hole, my caddie actually had to tell me how I was doing. I had no idea.
“That’s nirvana when it comes to golf. Nirvana is just playing each shot as it comes and not having — and to do that, I need to be enjoying myself; I need to be talking. I can’t have my head down thinking. And today was a perfect example. I knew I was making birdies, but if you had asked me, I would have said I made five. I did not know I had made six.
“I’m going to give my new tactic — before everybody did stats, I did stats. Now that everybody did their own stats, I’m refusing to do stats because I don’t want to be one of the masses. I have to be different. So I’m actually trying the opposite. Don’t want to know?”
So, for a player who would virtually be on the practice range all day when not competing, what then was Harrington planning after a well-earned lunch break.
“My afternoon this afternoon, you guys remember all those second places, you would see me on the range,” he said.”My afternoon this afternoon will be eating chocolate, drinking my Diet Coke, sitting in my bed watching Netflix or something. I’m different at this age. I have a much better handle on experience and who I am and what I need to do.”