'Tiger-like' Harrington concentrates on usurping world No 1

Fresh from another major win, Ireland's 'greatest sportsman' outlines his plan to tackle Woods. James Corrigan reports from Oakland Hills, Michigan

When the cheers had eventually subsided, the high-fiving had slapped itself out and Sergio Garcia had gone off to wage his customary war against the fates, little Paddy Harrington looked up to his mother and said, "Does that mean Daddy's won the trophy again?" The lad was spot on, Daddy had just won the trophy again. And again and again and again... In fact, the silverware was dwarfing the Harrington's hotel room when they awoke here yesterday after their second Sunday night of wild celebration in four weeks. The Wanamaker Trophy is roughly four times the size of the Claret Jug that has been lugged around as part of their luggage set for the last two seasons and in terms of estimating what this means for Padraig Harrington – well, his standing in the game has become similarly super-sized.

The rivals he conquered at Sunday's USPGA Championship were even prepared to evoke the "T" word when asked to put his third major victory of the last 13 months into some context. "That was Tiger-like, right there" said Ben Curtis, the American who shared second place with Garcia. "I wouldn't say, 'Watch out Mr Nicklaus, watch out Mr Woods', but he is playing some impressive golf."

Everyone and everything but the daft ranking system agrees that he is now the second best player in the world and thus the professional to provide the biggest threat when you know who returns from knee surgery next year. Yet far from wishing to continue his ferocious haymaking (there are some "ee-jits" out there already seeking to use that as a reason to diminish the staggering achievement of winning half of the last six majors) Harrington is counting down the hours until the Masters showdown. Woods will encounter an entirely different Padraig there.

The Dubliner has undeniably established himself as a major animal who, just like Tiger, seems to come to life at the turn in the final round. While the final two hours at Oakland Hills did not quite match the quality of those at Birkdale, the manner in which he holed putts of 20 feet, 10 feet and 18 feet on the last three holes underlined his hitman instinct in the heat of the hunt.

"I love the idea of the back nine of a major on a Sunday, I love it so much that I'm actually disappointed I'm seven months away from the next major," he said. "And I don't know what I'm going to do."

What he will do is what he has always done – go off to try to improve. Harrington has consistently underrated himself and although he sees this as something of a weakness – "I struggle with confidence and that is a change I do need to make" – it is actually his strength.

It may be an unwitting game-plan but the player who claims "to be better when my back is against the wall" seems to revel in creating a narrative from which he has to recover. Here it was the mental fatigue that after Friday's second round he declared had left him "running on empty" and even late on Sunday night he was insisting he had won despite his form. "I definitely didn't have my golf swing," he said. "My coordination was out all week."

Uncoordinated golfers do not shoot two 66s on one day at Oakland Hills – a feat described by Justin Leonard yesterday as "almost unimaginable" – but, regardless, Harrington will carry that belief on to his next tournament. "Most guys who had won two in a row would be on cloud nine and would play great golf for the next six months," he said. "I will be fighting it the next time I play."

That will be in 10 days in New Jersey for the beginning of the FedEx Series, the play-off system in which the winner collects a near £6m first prize. Thanks to his seeding Harrington will be one of the favourites to secure that pot and so pile the greenback up against the prestige. And so the comparisons with Tiger would keep on coming.

"That's a nice question to be asked," replied Harrington to the inevitable query whether he can now supplant Woods. "It's a good situation that you can ask that. It's funny, I've probably been the leading player in Europe for close to six years, yet I still get asked if I am the leading player in Europe. It is a big step now to move up and start competing on a different level. I've got Phil [Mickelson], I've got Tiger ahead of me. But do I believe I can improve as a player? Yes. There's plenty of my game to improve.

"It is a long way to catch Tiger. But I know that the only way of focusing on doing that is focusing on me." There will be plenty of focus on Harrington, now, particularly in his homeland where yesterday he was hailed by the Republic's Minister of Sport, Martin Cullen, as "clearly Ireland's greatest ever sportsman". Because of the Fedex and then the Ryder Cup, he is not due back in Dublin for five weeks, but a private jet has been offered to return for a "homecoming".

Harrington will likely decline as there is work to do. He acknowledged with a laugh that he is halfway on the road to the "Paddyslam", before making the serious point that a perspective needs to be struck. "I have to get to grips with where I am in the game," he said. The same applies to Garcia, although until he, like Harrington, accepts "responsibility" for his shots and their outcome then it appears doomed to be a futile exercise of personal examination. In a certain respect he can be regarded as having learnt from these bitter experiences, and his reaction to this particular Harrington humbling was so much more magnanimous than the outburst that greeted his Open heartache at Carnoustie last year. Yet again he could not resist taking a swipe at the fickle lady. "There's guys who get a little bit fortunate in majors," said the player confirmed as the best without one.

"They manage to get things going their way. Unfortunately, it hasn't happened to me. That doesn't mean I'm not on the right track. It's just a matter of time."

Milestones on drive to the top

With this win...

* Harrington became the first European to win back-to-back majors and the first golfer to do it since Tiger Woods two years ago.

* Harrington became the first European to win the USPGA Championship since Scotland's Tommy Armour in 1930.

* Harrington became the fourth player to win the Open and the USPGA Championship in the same season after Walter Hagen (1924), Nick Price (1994) and Tiger Woods (twice – 2000 and 2006).

* Harrington became the first Irishman to win an American major and the first European to win an American major since Jose Maria Olazabal (above) at the Masters in 1999.

* Harrington became the fifth active player to win three majors, after Tiger Woods (14), Phil Mickelson (3), Ernie Els (3) and Vijay Singh (3).

* Harrington became the first European resident to win the USPGA. Three former winners – Armour, Jock Hutchinson and Jim Barnes – were born in Europe but were US citizens at the time of their victories.

Newcastle players celebrate, Mario Balotelli scores, Alan Pardew and Brendan Rodgers
footballNewcastle vs Liverpool , Arsenal vs Burnley, Chelsea vs QPR and Everton vs Swansea
i100Amazing Amazon review bomb
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
food + drinkFrom Mediterranean Tomato Tart to Raw Caramel Peanut Pie
Moss and Grimshaw arrive at the party
peopleKate Moss, Claudia Schiffer and Nick Grimshaw at Jonathan Ross's Halloween party
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Boys to men: there’s nothing wrong with traditional ‘manly’ things, until masculinity is used to exclude people
indybest13 best grooming essentials
travelPurrrfect jet comes to Europe
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch attends the London premiere of his new film The Imitation Game
people He's not as smart as his characters
Life and Style
healthMovember isn't about a moustache trend, it saves lives
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities