Harrington hoping for repeat Hong Kong success

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The Independent Online

Padraig Harrington tries to do something this week he has yet to achieve in his career - successfully defend a title.

Padraig Harrington tries to do something this week he has yet to achieve in his career - successfully defend a title.

Europe's leading golfer has turned down one of the sport's richest events, the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, to return to the Hong Kong Open. After finishing the last four Order of Merit seasons second, second, third and third this is the start of Harrington's bid to add a number one to that sequence.

But it is to the world rankings that the 33-year-old Dubliner will mostly be looking in the new year - and on that score he would like to thank Vijay Singh for showing what is possible.

While Tiger Woods was at the top of the game the task of anybody older to get there looked so much harder. But Singh has achieved it at the age of 41 and Harrington said: "Vijay was behind me two or three years ago, but him getting to number one has made a lot of people think it can be done.

"I've entered that period where the next eight years should be my peak years."

With a series of top five finishes to back up his only win this year - at the German Masters on the eve of the Ryder Cup - Harrington has done well to climb from eighth to sixth.

"There seems to be a Big Five at the moment," he added, referring to Singh, Woods, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Phil Mickelson. "I am at the top of the next group, but it needs a big jump to get from sixth to fifth. It's going to have to be a Major."

Harrington never came close to that this season, a 13th place finish in the Masters his best effort. That has helped shape what he calls an "erratic" year, but he hopes to end it in similar style to that which earned him victory last year.

Then, he took the Hong Kong title with two closing birdies and also remembers clearly a chip on the 16th which he rates the best of his professional career so far.

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