Notes Paddy Slam in progress Champions dinner

By Associated PressApril 7, 2009, 4:00 pm
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AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Quick! Name the guy who is going for his third straight major at the Masters.
Tiger? Good guess, but physically impossible thanks to that bum knee last year. Phil? Nope, not this season. Well, then how about the guy who has actually won the last two majors? That, for those of you still scratching your heads, would be Padraig Harrington.
With wins at the British Open and PGA Championship last year, the Irishman could join Tiger Woods and Ben Hogan as the only players ever to win three different majors in a row this week. But with Woods returning from that knee injury and his rivalry with Phil Mickelson heating up again, Harrington could actually go out and play a practice round earlier this week with a gallery that numbered in the handfulls.
It makes no difference to me, Harrington said Tuesday. The outside stuff, I cant control, so Im not too fussed about it.
Harrington has never been one to draw much attention to himself. He splits his time between the PGA and European tours. Hes not an outlandish dresser like Ian Poulter. And the next time he talks trash at the Ryder Cup ' or anywhere else, for that matter ' will be the first.
He simply goes out and plays his game. Plays it very well.
Despite a wrist so sore he didnt know if hed even be able to play, Harrington won his second straight claret jug last July. He won the PGA Championship a month later, making him the first European to win successive majors in the same season. He also was the first European to be named the PGA Tours player of the year.
But the thought of winning a third straight major doesnt faze Harrington. The three hes already won, thats a different story.
Now I realize actually I can win majors within my own control, Harrington said. I know if I prepare right and play right and go out and play my golf, its possible for me to win and to be in control of me winning. So thats the pressure and I know I can do it. I have to be able to bring it to the table every time ' well, not every time, but sometimes.
Regardless of whats going on outside with you guys, and whether its three in a row or another major, its just the fact that I know I can do it.
Harrington certainly has the game to win at Augusta National. Hes been fifth twice, and has finished in the top 10 the last two years.
And while fans might not have caught on that hes chasing history, his fellow players certainly are.
Lee Westwood said to me yesterday, `Whats all this about the Paddy Slam? Are you starting up wrestling? Harrington said.

TIGERS RIVAL: Forget about Phil Mickelson or Padraig Harrington. The real rival to Tiger Woods might be a retired player in his 40s who has a history of performing in pressure situations.
That would be John Smoltz, the only player in baseball history with 200 wins and 150 saves. Smoltz is on the disabled list with the Boston Red Sox, but he took time off last week during spring training to play with Woods at Isleworth outside Orlando, Fla.
Asked if the All-Star pitchers pockets were still deep, Woods laughed and said, Yes.
But he didnt gloat.
Ive played a few times with Smoltzy. Ive gotten him and hes gotten me, Woods said.
How does a baseball player take down the No. 1 player in golf?
Its about negotiating, Woods said, referring to the number of strokes he gave Smoltz. Woods did not reveal how many, but it wasnt entirely a charitable case. He said Smoltz either shot a 72 or 73, and apparently that wasnt even his best day.
I remember the time that I shot 63 and lost money, Woods said. He shot 66 that day. The guy can play.

CALIBER CADDIE: Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal might be the only player at Augusta National who has played fewer golf tournaments than his own caddie.
But this is no ordinary caddie.
Olazabal, who is battling rheumatism and has played only twice this year, is using Emanuele Canonica as his caddie this week. Canonica is a past champion on the European Tour who has represented Italy in the World Cup. Canonica was a late arrival because he made the cut last week in the Portuguese Open.
Both have the same manager, Sergio Gomez, who cleared the player-caddie relationship with the European Tour.
Emanuele has been asking for a couple of years whether he could do it, Gomez told the Press Association. Now he is, not just hear, but at Hilton Head next week as well.
But the player-caddie relationship needed clearance.
The European Tour has a rule that no full member may caddie for any competitor in a European Tour-approved tournament, a definition that includes a reference to former winners of Order of Merit events. Canonica, 38, won the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles four years ago.
But as a past champion, he has played recently only on sponsor exemptions.

GOOD EATS: Before Trevor Immelman broke through last year, it had been three decades since a South African won the Masters. That meant there was little chance he would duplicate any food served recently at the annual champions dinner.
Immelman, though, wasnt taking any chances with the queasy stomachs of other former champions.
I wanted to have a South African flair, but obviously it had been 30 years since we had a South African win, Immelman said. I wanted to do that as well as keep it simple so that past champions would want to try it and eat it and then enjoy it.
The defending champion sets the dinner menu, and Immelman began conservatively with a spinach salad before offering two dishes as options for the main entree. The first was a dish called Babotie that features minced meat cooked in curry spices with a layer of egg on the top and is eaten with yellow rice, while the second was Chicken Sosaties, which includes grilled chicken and vegetables on skewers.
The dessert was Melktert, which Immelman described as similar to pumpkin pie except the main ingredient is milk.
The menu, though, wasnt as important to Immelman as having a chance to host the dinner.
Im looking forward to it, he said before the dinner. Like I said, I think its going to be the highlight of my week, to be in the presence of guys that I have just idolized and looked up to my whole life.

PHILS DEAL: Phil Mickelson already took care of one piece of business this week, signing a five-year extension with Callaway. Mickelson joined Callaway two weeks before the 2004 Ryder Cup, and while it didnt start well, he cant argue with the results.
I just felt like in the last five years, I have won my major championships, I have come closest to No. 1 in the ranking that Ive ever been, and I felt like Callaways support staff and the engineers and technicians have been a big part of that.
The financial terms were not disclosed.
This is an important part of my career, these next five years, Mickelson said.

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