Padraig Harrington returns to Carnoustie this week feeling like a defending champion as he prepares to tee it up at the course that hosted his first Major championship victory in his memorable Open success in 2007.
That year Harrington did it the hard way, twice taking a dip in the Barry Burn on the 18thbefore a most gutsy up-and-down eventually led to him beating Sergio Garcia in a playoff.
He’s been back to his old stomping ground many times since of course but not for an Open Championship, with the Dubliner hoping to call on special memories to inspire a similar display this time around.
“I look forward to playing in every Open Championship,” said the ever-talkative Harrington. “This one, like last year, I’m kind of coming back as a kind of defending champion. I know Jordan won last year, but it does make it a little more special when you’re coming back in that circumstance.
“I’m quite familiar with Carnoustie. I’ve been back every year at the Dunhill Championship. It’s interesting, obviously, the golf course. For all intents and purposes, it’s a complete different course than the one in 2007 on that front. But it’s always nice to be back in a place you’ve played well. I will make the effort to enjoy myself this week.”
With conditions expected to be fast and furious over the sun-baked layout, Harrington expects his experience of handling links conditions to prove key to any potential title challenge.
“Links experience is especially important,” he noted. “You’d have to go back to Hoylake in 2007 to see something as fiery as this.
“It certainly plays into the hands of guys who can tread the ball around. However the great thing about this golf course, or the interesting thing, is that you can’t take all the trouble out. You know, there’s no perfect strategy that eliminates risk. You’re going to have to skirt by some bunkers and it’s very difficult to stay short.”
Harrington will be under know elusions in terms of the importance of ball control this week after running a 457 yard drive on the 18thinto the same Barry Burn that it took him two shots to hit in the lead up to his first Major win. Yet for someone as experienced as the three-time Major winner, does the uttering of the words ‘Barry Burn’ elicit any particular emotion, be it anguish or otherwise?
“When I hear the name of Barry Burn, I go straight back to when I lost the British Amateur here in the last 16 back in 1992, I think. ’91 or ’92. I doubled the last two holes to lose by one hole. So I’ve got history with this golf course, and certainly the Barry Burn, it’s all about 17 and 18.
“Clearly, it’s strange having played it in 2007. The tee shot on 18 was so difficult. And yet yesterday I played [Monday], I hit 4 iron, wedge into 18, and it would have been nice – it would have been easy if it was like that in’07.
“As I said, as much as the 18thhole is probably the toughest finishing hole in Major golf, it is all based on circumstance; how you’re doing, how’s the weather, what sort of conditions you’re playing in.
“Yeah, I stood on the tee this week and I looked at where I hit it in the hazard, and you’re going, well, how could you hit it in the hazard in the conditions I faced this week? It was easy enough done in 2007.”
But that’s not to say that Harrington will be shirking any challenges should opportunities arise across the famed links.
“There’s always going to be shots that you’re just going to have to grow up and hit. You can’t hide all the time around Carnoustie.”
Harrington will need a marked upturn in recent form to challenge this week but the consistency that he’s lacking could be more than made up for if he manages to successfully draw on the memories of 11 years ago. One thing’s for sure, it won’t be a lack of self-belief that denies him a fourth Major crown and a third Claret Jug. Ladybirds at the ready…