Unofficially, it was monumental to the Irishman. What has to get your attention is the strength of the field ' 16 of the top players in the world. The fact that Harrington was a long way from his home, whipping up on players who were near their home bases. And the fact that he beat Tiger Woods in Tigers own tournament. It certainly was more telling than the BMW Asian Open, the first tournament on the 2003 European Tour which Harrington won last month.
He isnt yet Tiger ' is anyone? But he certainly is No. 2 in the world right now, in December of 2002. Say what you want about Phil Mickelson or Ernie Els, but this is the hottest player on the planet at the moment. Yes, I suppose that includes even Tiger. What he did was most impressive ' hes been traveling half a world away from Dublin and hes still doing it, playing on unfamiliar grasses, and going up against guys ' good guys - who play in this environment every day.
Tiger was there, Mickelson was there, so was Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh and Colin Montgomerie and Davis Love. Chris DiMarco teed it up, so did Retief Goosen, David Toms, Nick Price and Bernhard Langer. This guy played them all, one by one, and none of this two-man team stuff. And, after four days and 72 holes, he simply beat them.
Silly season? Yes. But for one week at least, this was the best of the 'sillies.'
It is only silly when you are at the end of the field, said Harrington. He admitted that there isnt a lot of pressure down at the bottom, where you are guaranteed a lot of money regardless of where you finish.
Up around the top, though, there is a lot of pressure. For one, you know that, sooner or later, youre going to have to face a Tiger run. And for another, the money at that end is enough to make you choke if you are at all inclined toward that end.
It is not silly for me or, I think, anybody who is in contention, Harrington said. A million dollars, you certainly are very aware of what you are playing for. It does make it a little bit interesting. Winning a million dollars is winning the lottery in Ireland. It is a lot of money at home.
The most money he played for in Europe last summer was for about $550,000, excepting the British Open, which was in the ballpark of a million dollars. Sundays win at Tigers tournament in California was for $1 million, which is $500,000 more than was Woods got for second place.
The United States, for sure, holds a special allure. And it isnt solely for the money, though there isnt any doubt he could fatten up more quickly over here.
I do like playing in the States particularly, Padraig said. I like the speed of the greens. They are a bit quicker than they are in Europe. I do enjoy coming over here.
American pros can rest a little easier, though. Hes still going to play the majority of his golf in Europe. In the climate of world golf nowadays, you dont have to concentrate just on America. You can play eight or nine times in America, what with the three majors in the States, three World Golf Championships, the Tournament Players Championship and a couple of special invitations. Why limit yourself to playing fulltime in this country?
If I came over here and played substantially more tournaments, I wouldnt have time to play everywhere else, and there is so much good golf to be played around the world, he said by way of explanation. So, ultimately, I would love to play more here, but it is very hard to fit in.
Langer says the times are changing in the golf world, so much so that it is possible for a talented player such as Harrington to play the world over and still be able to make his home in Dublin.
When I was his age, I had to come here and play (to challenge the best in the world), said the German, who now makes his home in South Florida. He does not necessarily have to do that. He will play against the best players seven or 10 times per year. If that is his goal, then that is fine.
Harrington can play Woods 11 of 12 times a year, counting the four majors, three WGC events, a couple of other times in the U.S. on sponsor invites, and a couple of times in Europe. That certainly should give an accurate barometer of the 31-year-old Irishmans skills.
He is already gone from home about half the year, and he thinks that is plenty, thank you.
I love home and that is a big problem, said Padraig. I could come here and play comfortably.
You have heard before from Europeans, Oh, the culture is so different over in the States. I actually enjoy coming to the States. I really like it and have been welcomed by the players. I have had very good experiences here.
I could play here and enjoy it, but the problem is, I like playing around the world. I like experiencing different cultures and different things. It is good to go play in Asia, the golf courses are fantastic in Australia. (But) if I committed to here, it would limit everything else.
So Harrington will continue to do it his way. No sense in limiting yourself when you can dip into purses from all over the globe. A little here, a little there or a lot here, a lot there. A million dollars or a million pounds, this man is going to make an awfully lot of jack before he is finished.