Harrington: ‘Tiger lifted my game’

Padraig Harrington has credited Tiger Woods for taking him to a new level on the first day of the 2009 US PGA Championship.

Padraig Harrington credited Tiger Woods for taking him to a new level as, for the second time in four days, the two stars locked horns at the top of the US PGA Championship leaderboard on Thursday.
Woods holds a one-stroke overnight lead over playing partner and defending champion Harrington as they headed into Friday’s second round at 7.45pm BST at Hazeltine National in Minnesota.
World number one Woods shot a bogey-free 67 after reeling in Harrington’s three-shot, 54-hole lead at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday and winning for the second week in a row and for the fifth time this year.
It is form like that and a legacy of 14 major victories that Ireland’s Harrington, a three-time major winner himself, said drove him on to excel when paired with the American golfing icon.
“I think it pushes you,” Harrington said.
“You have to go to a new level.
“I think it pushes you on and that’s what I like.
“There’s no point in being cautious or playing safe. You can get caught very much at times in the middle.
“You either go for it; you either play well or you don’t is my attitude and Tiger brings that out.
“He pushes you a little bit more, and you know, you have to go for your shots if you want to compete.”
Both men said playing together in the first round at Hazeltine National yesterday was a very different experience to the one generated by them in the final round at Ohio’s Firestone Country Club last Sunday.
“In fairness, last Sunday, both of us were heavily into our own games,” Harrington said.
“We were both focused and in the zone and all those sort of things.
“I think today was a lot more easy-going. We were a lot more relaxed and we chatted away today about so many things, lots of different things.
“Sunday is a business day. Thursday is ‘let’s get into the tournament’.”
Woods agreed, adding: “The situation is not the same.
“This is just the first round. You’re trying to play yourself into that position where we were last Sunday.
“Last Sunday we didn’t say much. I think he said ‘I have a Titleist (ball)’. And I said ‘I have a Nike, good luck today’, and that’s pretty much it.
“Today we talked a little bit more because obviously it’s the first round and most of the guys usually talk the first two or three days. But you get a little more quiet on the weekend.”
Both men have plenty of statistical evidence to like their chances of being in the frame come Sunday evening.
Of the six majors Woods has led after 18 holes, the American has won four, most recently the 2005 Open.
Harrington, meanwhile, is better placed after last night’s US PGA first round than in any of his three previous major victories.
At the 2008 Open at Royal Birkdale, the Dubliner finished his first 18 holes five shots off the lead, while the previous year at Carnoustie he was four shots adrift and in last year’s US PGA at Oakland Hills he began the second round three shots back.
And he is not planning on staying relaxed as he was yesterday should he get to the final round and still be in contention.
“It’s strange,” Harrington said. “I like to get into the zone.
“I need more nerves and more hype and that. There’s a combination.
“I’m not saying that either isn’t perfect. But maybe a little bit of combination of the two.
“Definitely Sunday brings its own. There are more nerves involved. There is more adrenalin and if they’re used properly it can help you perform even to a greater standard.”