Golf: Harrington reckons Augusta will bring out the best in him

PADRAIG HARRINGTON may have shared top billing with Tiger Woods going into the 2009 Masters, but this year the world No.1's private life revelations have dominated the countdown to the first major of 2010.

With Woods having faced the press properly for the first time in nearly five months yesterday, Harrington was free to concentrate on what he needed to do to try to win the event. The Dubliner, who managed only 35th place last year when going for a third successive major title, has shown some encouraging form lately.

Until Sunday, that is. A closing 77 at the Houston Open dropped him to 40th place and was his worst round in America since a last-day 78 at the US PGA last August. Harrington is able to write that off as "just one of those days", but he also knows Augusta is going to test him more than any other course this season.

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"It's a test on every shot – if you can play golf at Augusta you can play golf anywhere," he said. "I'm using it as the ultimate judge of the quality of my golf game. There are always holes at every course (that bring back bad memories), but maybe Augusta has more than many and that can lead to you being a bit defensive."

That certainly was not the case at the long 13th last year, Harrington having two eagles and two birdies there, but his hopes were effectively ended by a quadruple bogey nine at the second on day three. "The second hole is a good example. You've got to hit your tee shot down the middle to reach the green in two, but I've hit it in the left-hand trees before (as he did 12 months ago)," he added.

"I'm not going to feel too good any day standing on that tee knowing I don't want to hit it left, but if you want to get a birdie you have to take it on. There's definitely baggage on the second, but every hole at Augusta has a little bit of baggage somewhere. Augusta would be the golf course that intimidates me most. Always has. You can't name a hole out there that doesn't put you under a little bit of stress. But I like that – I have always played based on fear. I'm always better when I'm absolutely pushed to the end."