Padraig Harrington will attempt to join one of the most exclusive clubs in the history of golf this week when he defends The Open Championship title at Turnberry on Scotland’s glorious Ayrshire coast.
Following his victories at Carnoustie in 2007 and Royal Birkdale 12 months ago, the 37 year old Irishman is attempting to become only the fifth player since Open records began in 1860 to win in three successive years.
The last man to achieve the feat was Australian Peter Thomson, who won in 1954, 1955 and 1956, but it perhaps puts into perspective the magnitude of what Harrington is trying to accomplish when you consider the last European player to complete the hat-trick was Scotland’s Bob Ferguson way back in 1880, 1881 and 1882.
For the first of those triumphs Ferguson – who followed his fellow countrymen Tom Morris Jnr and Jamie Anderson as a three in a row winner – received the princely sum of £7, a little less than the champion in Ayrshire come Sunday night who will pick up a cheque for £750,000 from the total prize fund of £4.2 million.
By his own admission, Harrington goes into the week in not the best of form, but it is a measure of his unwavering belief that that does not correlate to a lack of confidence for the three time Major Champion, indeed, it is quite the reverse.
“I do like some of the conditions during the week at a major tournament to be quite difficult because it does limit the amount of people who can cope with that,” he said.
“That is one of my strengths. It brings more people into the contest if you get four nice, sunny days but if you throw in at least one windy day and a demanding course it certainly brings down maybe to only 50 per cent of the field that would compete in that.
“In a regular tournament, if you’re not three or four under par after nine holes you feel like you’re on the back foot whereas at a major you want to pace yourself during the week. It’s more like a marathon than a sprint.
“It can come down to just playing really good golf for nine holes. As long as you’ve done nicely for the first 63 holes and as long as you’ve held your head and your patience for those 63 holes, you are in position and have a chance.”
As befits the stature of the golf’s greatest stroke play tournament, The 138th Open Championship will feature all the greats of the game with the exception of World Number
Two Phil Mickelson who will be at home with wife Amy as she continues her treatment for breast cancer.
Leading the way, of course, is World Number One Tiger Woods who will be aiming to bag his 15th Major Championship title and edge ever closer to the record of 18 held by Jack Nicklaus, while current Masters Tournament Champion Angel Cabrera and Germany’s Martin Kaymer who has won the last two European Tour events in France and Scotland will spearhead The European Tour challenge alongside Harrington.
This will be only the fourth time that Turnberry has hosted The Open Championship, the other winners having been Tom Watson in 1977, Greg Norman in 1986 and Nick Price in 1994.