One of Padraig Harrington’s most interesting theories is, in this writer’s opinion at least, that most top-tier players have an 18-month window in which their game peaks, with everything either side of that window part of the ascent and descent.
As with any theory, there are outliers of course, but it rings true for Harrington’s own career, and the 2007/2008 period in which he captured his three major championships is where his own game reached its highest point.
That’s not to say that there won’t be weeks where it all comes together for a leading pro, but it’s sustained brilliance that he references. The 18 months between the ’99 PGA Championship and the 2001 Masters would be Tiger Woods’ apex – a period in which he completed the Tiger Slam by holding all four major titles, and the Players Championship for good measure. This 18 month stretch would yield five majors in total, and though he’d amass a further 10 outside, he’d never quite match the level of dominance shown.
It’s not so easy to pin down Rory McIlroy’s 18-month peak – again, there are always outliers – and it’s possible (though improbable) that he hasn’t even reached it yet, but, should Harrington’s hypothesis be generally accurate, Seamus Power is going to be an interesting watch in 2024.
Power’s two PGA Tour wins – the Barbasol Championship in 2021 and the Butterfield Bermuda Championship in 2022 – came within a 15-month window, and he climbed to a career-high 28th 18 months after his maiden win. Since then, partly due to a dip in form, but mainly due to an injury layoff, he’s dropped to 85th in the world and finished 50th of 59 on his return to action at The Sentry last week.
Two months shy of his 37th birthday, the Waterford man is in what was once considered the Goldilocks period – the age bracket where players, including Harrington himself, have typically enjoyed their best stuff – but the game is rapidly changing and the top players in the world are getting younger and younger.
But Power’s ascent to the PGA Tour was a long time in the making, and in his mid-30s, had never played better.
That he finds himself back in regular contention at PGA Tour events as he continues to shake off that competitive rust is definitely not out of the question, nor is him playing his way back into serious Ryder Cup contention as 2025 and Bethpage Black comes on the horizon, but that he’s on the other side of the mountain and on his way back down can’t be discounted.
Not yet qualified for the Masters, but guaranteed his place in each of the PGA Tour’s ‘Signature Events’ this year, the first three months will be busy for Power as he looks to procure an invitation to Augusta National and subsequently the other three majors. There are, of course, two ways that he can get himself a Masters berth. The first being to win a PGA Tour event in the intervening months, and the second being to get himself back inside the world’s top 50 by the start of April.
Owing to his 2022 victory actually coming in the 2022/23 PGA Tour season, he’s exempt on Tour through 2025, but with the season shortened and it becoming less marathon, more sprint, Power and dozens others can’t afford not to hit the ground running, particularly with the PGA Tour’s introduction of an effective two-tier Tour with the top 50 in the FedEx rankings at season’s end afforded increased opportunities and those outside desperate to push their way in.
He’d be the first to admit that the past four or five years have been something of a dream, that he has exceeded expectation and moved the goalposts considerably. But success is like a drug, and a hit is quickly followed by the desire for the next.
Has he crested? Or is his best 18 months yet to come? Time will tell.