HOW HARRINGTON SIGNS THESE DAYS

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Andy Murray famously signs every autograph he can after failing to get Andre Agassi’s signature as a young tennis fan.

Andy Murray famously signs every autograph he can after failing to get Andre Agassi’s signature as a young tennis fan.
Padraig Harrington simply signs every autograph he can because he is a nice guy who takes the responsibility of being Open champion very seriously indeed.
But Harrington has one small, or actually quite long, problem – the length of his name. Signing hundreds of autographs is no problem if you can just scribble Pele, but keep writing Padraig Harrington every time and it is no wonder the Irishman was doubtful for his Open defence at Birkdale with an injured right wrist.
There is however, a solution, and Harrington can take the first step towards it with victory in the year’s final major, the USPGA Championship, from August 7-10 at Oakland Hills.
“I thought when I won the Open last year, do you think I could get away with maybe signing Paddy?” joked Harrington.
“Whereas I used to always sign P Harrington, as Open champion I think I’ve signed certainly 99.9% of all my signatures as my full name.
“I don’t think that winning the second one will get me down to the one name yet. I’ll have to win a few more.”
Joking aside, that is precisely what Harrington aims to do after his four-shot victory over Ian Poulter at Birkdale was achieved in tremendous style.
The 36-year-old is only the seventh European player in the modern era to have won two or more majors, following Nick Faldo (six), Seve Ballesteros (five) and Tony Jacklin, Sandy Lyle, Bernhard Langer and Jose Maria Olazabal (all with two).
Another title would see him match the achievements of Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh, and Harrington is well aware of the exclusive club he has joined.
“Obviously winning a major puts you in a special club. Winning two of them puts you in a new club altogether,” added the Dubliner, the first European since 1906 to successfully defend the Open Championship.
“I think over the next week I will begin to reflect on things like that. I said earlier in the year, my goal is to keep myself getting into contention in majors, keep hanging around. The majors are what it’s all about for me.
“I set my schedule out this year for the four majors and the Ryder Cup. I was trying to peak for those four weeks. I got myself vaguely in contention at the Masters, at the US Open it didn’t happen, the Open it happens.
“If I can get a 50% hit rate into contention, that’s two a year, and then all you need to do is maybe hit one out of four of those and you’re winning one every second year. That’s a pretty high rate for most of us mere mortals.
“It’s all about getting yourself into position so that you’re there or thereabouts with nine holes on Sunday, so that if you can make a few things happen, you’re in the right spot.
“I think I’ve got better at that. I’ve matured as a player with experience, and with my game. I trust my game more, and I definitely have more confidence in my swing.
“I didn’t realise I’d get another major so quickly. I was confident that it would happen again. For the whole time last year I’ve always said it was great to win my first major, I never put it as an isolated event. I felt I was going to win another one.”
Winning a third at Oakland Hills might be a tall order even in the continued absence of Tiger Woods, but Harrington will be able to draw on some great memories of the course which staged the 2004 Ryder Cup.
Harrington won four points out of five as Europe romped to a record nine-point victory, including teaming up with Colin Montgomerie for two wins on the opening day, the first coming against Woods and Mickelson in the opening fourballs match.
Ryder Cup team-mate Paul Casey has been told the course has undergone numerous changes since then, with more length – surprise, surprise – and bunkers added.
But that is unlikely to deter Harrington from the task at hand and who knows, maybe just signing ‘Paddy’ will take off after all.
By Phil Casey, PA Sport

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