AUGUSTA, Ga. While many players complain that they have fallen out of love with the super-sized, 7,445-yard green monster that is Augusta National, the free-thinking, speed-talking British Open champion Padraig Harrington has, as ever, an unconventional opinion.
"I think it's better; the length has improved it," he said. "If they want to have 15 under par win or 6 over par, they will make it happen. They can have us shooting birdies and eagles if they want us to, simply by controlling the greens. They are very much in control without having to put in tricky pin positions."
He continued: "I prefer to go to tough courses where they don't have to set them up difficult rather than an easy course where they just try to hide the pin positions all over the place. I love Augusta. It's such an exciting place. I have felt comfortable there the last two years, and that has been a big step up for me."
Harrington said he learned two things from winning the British Open that could help him this week. "One is, I can look back at Carnoustie and use it as a yardstick to judge what preparation is good for me. The second is, having won 1 major, I assume I will feel a little bit more relaxed if I am in contention again. But I will only find that out in time."
He also pinpointed two things that are necessary for success at Augusta. "Make good decisions and putt well."
Harrington spent four hours on the practice putting green on Monday, but he said he won't be following the lead of Zach Johnson, who laid up on all the par 5s last year and still came out of them 11 under par. Last year, Harrington fired at half of the par fives and stumbled out of them five over par.
"I might not overpower them, but they are in my range," Harrington said. "My strength is always to hit it up around the greens and then use my short game to get it up and down. I can chip the ball closer from around the greens than I can hitting a wedge in there."
He said that his goal this year would be "to choose the right shot at the right time whether that is to go for the green or to lay up."
The happy-go-lucky Harrington has often struggled with self-doubt. When he turned pro, he felt the best he could be was a journeyman. Not any more. The British Open changed all that. Well, sort of.
"I now believe I am a major champion and will go on to win more," he said confidently. "But I still expect to go through periods where I mess up. There is probably only one player that could actually turn up and say, 'If I play well this week, I'm going to win.'"
Unfortunately, Harrington didn't say who that player is, so we'll just have to guess.