Despite 14 worldwide wins and four years as a mainstay of the top 10 in the world rankings, Padraig Harrington is known less for his victories than his near misses- he has more than two dozen second-place finishes in his 10-year career. Fans love his goofy grin and "Lucky Charms" accent, but beneath the charm is a steely competitor constantly looking for an edge. (One experiment with his shoes helped him gain 20 yards off the tee.) With two wins on the PGA Tour in 2005, the 34-year-old Dubliner says he's ready for a major close-up.
This has been your first full season on the PGA Tour. Why did you decide to play in the U.S. and what's been the main difference you've found? I wanted to play more events before The Masters and U.S. Open. Traditionally I don't start playing until the end of February. Last year I had only played 10 events by the British Open. There should be a difference at this stage--I set my schedule to play four more events--but because of family circumstances I haven't played as full a schedule as I thought I would.
He's comfortable, that's about all I can say. He's gone past treatment at this stage. [Editor's Note: Padraig's father, Patrick, died as this issue went to press.]
He introduced you to the game, right?
Does that experience make you want to design your own course?
Having a son under 2 years old at home, are there days when you just don't want to hop a plane at Dublin airport?
Do you have a private jet yet?
A lot of attention is focused on the Big Five. Where do you see yourself in the mix?
You competed with them at the Honda Classic. You flirted with a 59 in the final round and then made two spectacular par saves to beat Vijay. Where does it rank in the career moments?
At any point in the playoff did you think about how, if you were to lose, there would be more "bridesmaid" stories?
Now that you've banished the bridesmaid demons by winning the Barclay's Classic in Westchester, where you lost a playoff last year, do you remember the names of the bridesmaids in your own wedding party?
[Pauses] I do remember them. Do you want me to name them?
No, just checking. Has there been a major that got away from you?
I've had some good results in majors but the only one where I was in the mix was [the British Open at] Muirfield in 2002. I missed the playoff by a shot. I was three behind playing the last, was pushing to make birdie and made bogey. I never saw 6-under getting into a playoff. I finished 5-under. I wasn't a bit disappointed when I finished, but I was devastated about an hour later.
How many countries did you pay taxes in last year?
You trained as an acountant but don't know that?
Is it true that your shoes are giving you extra distance off the tee?
How much farther are you hitting it?
And it started with cutting the rubber off your shoes. Are you a naturally curious guy?
Have you even started thinking about the Ryder Cup in Ireland next year?
Would you rather see it played on a classic Irish links than at the K Club, which is a very American-style course?
If it were played on a links course it would give us a better chance and it would be more traditional, but the K Club makes a better venue, without a doubt. The Ryder Cup is very important to the European Tour, much more so than in the U.S. The Tour has commercial interests and it uses the Cup as a big stick to wield when it comes to promoting the Tour. [K Club owner] Michael Smurfit supported the Tour and deserves the Ryder Cup.
Given the recent accusations of cheating against Colin Montgomerie, do you think that's going to hurt his...
...chances at being Ryder Cup captain someday?
What did you think I was going to ask?
Even so, it's a hard stigma for Monty to shake, even if he's innocent. Just ask Vijay.
Other than your family, who would be the first person you'd invite to your birthday party?
[Laughs] Who'd be the first person? [Thinking]
Your World Cup teammate and longtime buddy Paul McGinley will be upset if he doesn't get the call here.
Does Eminem count as a despot?
Who's the last person who'd get the invite? Maybe Jose Maria Olazabal? [Harrington and Olazabal had a well-publicized falling out over a rules incident in 2003]
What do you spend your money on?
Could be, all right. That would make my life simpler. It would probably make me a better golfer. It's not a matter of explaining it to my accountant. I can justify it that it's good for the family, good for golf. It's just...[laughs] financially.
Here's a scenario: you're playing Texas Hold 'Em against your cousin Dan Harrington, who won the World Series of Poker in 1995. You've got just a pair of aces and Dan pushes all his chips into the pot. Do you call him?
Another of your cousins is Detroit Lions quarterback Joey Harrington. Can he hit a wedge farther than you can throw a football?