WE GOT a huge indication of Padraig Harrington’s mindset when he was asked about the Ryder Cup captaincy in the run-up to Darren Clarke’s appointment last month.
Would the three-time Major winner like to be in the reckoning, he was asked. After all, it had been almost seven years since he had won on either of the big tours, so his best playing days looked behind him.
Harrington, 43, who will certainly by Europe’s captain one day, said no. That was a sure sign that he thought he could still qualify for the team at Hazeltine next year as a player.
And on Monday he showed why he still fancies his chances, winning a play-off to claim the Honda Classic at Palm Beach and end a drought that stretches back to the US PGA Championship in 2008.
I was delighted for him. He played a fantastic back nine featuring four birdies until the 17th, where he found the water. That could have finished a weaker character but Harrington came back and birdied the last to draw level with Daniel Berger, before beating the rookie at the second extra hole, a re-run of the 17th, where this time he landed his tee-shot to within five feet.
Harrington’s game looked to be in great shape over the weekend. His swing had good width and turn and was reminiscent of that 2008 Open victory at Royal Birkdale, which came in the middle of his Major-winning purple patch; similar in style and standard.
Ian Poulter’s challenge faded as he found the water hazards five times on his final round, but in typical style he rallied and birdied the last two holes, falling just one short of the play-off. He will just have to take the positives from what was his best finish with new clubs, while fellow Englishman Paul Casey, who also shared third, continued his good form.
Harrington’s success clinched his place at the Masters, and following the Irishman in qualifying for Augusta should be the target for last week’s winner on the European Tour, Andy Sullivan.
The Joburg Open was the 27-year-old from Nuneaton’s second title in just eight weeks, and his best shot of the week actually came at the only hole he bogeyed on Sunday, the 11th.
Sullivan put himself in the difficult position of needing to sink a 20-foot, left-to-right downhill putt to limit the damage to just one dropped shot, but did so beautifully. That kept his momentum going and he produced two more wonderful shots at the last to card a final birdie and secure a two-stroke win.
It was a shame for David Howell, who has an unfortunate habit of encountering someone playing just that slightest bit better and was among the group tied for second.
Sullivan, however, looks to be a very solid performer and a winner. He has a good swing and can certainly play the game. Whether he can now go on and challenge at Majors is up to him.
Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam