By petedirenzo
Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Padraig Harrington, winner of three of the last six majors, is enjoying the relative quiet that has accompanied him to the Masters. On Monday, he played a practice round in front of no more than two dozen fans. (He insisted that the late hour of 5 p.m. and the cool temperatures kept fans away.) On Tuesday, his press conference at the media center had plenty of good seats available.
As recent multiple-major winners go, Harrington's buzz factor in the United States remains fair to middling.April7_harrington_600x400 "I'm not too fussed about it," Harrington said. "At the end of the day, I can go back to Ireland and get Tiger Woods-esque treatment there. Tiger coming back from injury to the Masters is a big story, but that's not going to make him play better or me play better. It's not going to give him a shot advantage or give me one."

Harrington looked completely at ease as he spoke, like a man content with his place in the golf world. He has won back-to-back British Opens and the 2008 PGA Championship and become the face of European golf. In Ireland, few athletes are more beloved than Harrington, who is bidding to join Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan as the only players to win three consecutive professional majors.
Harrington, 37, has done commercials and even made speeches to the Dublin's soccer team and Ireland's rugby team.
"The Dublin football team lost to a lower ranked team," Harrington said. "The Irish rubgy team has had great success. I'm on a 50-50 run."
Just a few years ago, Harrington was near the top of the list of best players never to win a major. At times during his PGA Tour career, he wondered if his talent was even comparable to the game's best players. But Harrington dug the answers out of the dirt, outworking competitors by spending hours on the driving range to figure his game out.
"I [used to] have a ton of second-place finishes," Harrington remembered. "And that was used as a stick to beat me with."
No longer. Harrington is now an elite pro, even if he doesn't get the attention in the United States that he does back home. Even England's Lee Westwood was curious about Harrington's recent run of major success.
"Lee Westwood said to me, 'What's all this about the Paddy Slam?'" Harrington said. "'Are you taking up wrestling?'"Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

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