Thursday, February 05, 2009

Padraig Harrington acts tough (he battled through a wrist injury to win the PGA last August). He plays tough (all three of his major wins required grit and resilience down the stretch). He even looks tough (he arrived this week at Torrey Pines with sutures above and below his right eye, the result of a recent surgery to remove sun spots).
Now if only he could talk tough. When a Wall Street Journal reporter earlier this year asked Harrington about filling the Claret Jug with Guinness, Harrington responded: “I don’t have the most acquired taste for beer. I'm more a man for a Coke.” That’s like a Texan poo-pooing brisket. 
Suds aside, the self-esteem-challenged Irishman has long been driven by a fear of failure, and even winning three of the last six majors hasn’t emboldened him, at least not in press conferences, where he’s still more Spicoli than Ali. 
“Everybody likes to improve their results year to year. It’s going to be difficult in my case this year,” he said Wednesday at the Buick Invitational. “You know, my attitude is, if I keep playing my golf, keep doing my thing, I will go and win majors. Whether that happens the next one I tee it up or happens in two years’ time, that's fine with me.”
Can you imagine Tiger Woods confessing that he’d be cool with not winning another major until 2011? Forget it. You’d be more likely to hear Tiger talk politics than admit that he’d be at peace going 0 for his next 8. Harrington is a different animal, a world-class athlete driven not by unyielding pride and self-assurance but rather a single unnerving thought: “Don’t blow it, laddy.”
As Harrington himself said after last year’s PGA: “The next level for me is about accepting I'm a three-time major winner, taking the confidence from that.” Then again, why mess with success?

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