Padraig Harrington reckons he might never have become a major winner if he’d let the Claret Jug slip from his grasp in the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie.
The Irishman has three major titles to his name, having made a successful defence in the game’s oldest major at Royal Birkdale the following year, when he also won the US PGA Championship at Oakland Hills.
But, speaking in the build-up to this week’s return to the Angus venue, Harrington believes his career might not have been so successful if he’d lost in a play-off to Sergio Garcia after taking a bogey at the 72nd hole.
“I had lost at the US Open at Winged Foot the previous year, when I had three pars to win. But it was my first time I had been in a major and I was happy enough that I’d got myself into that position.
“This one here [at Carnoustie], it was mine to win coming down 18. It was mine. Having thrown that away, I don’t know if I would have another opportunity. I think I would have struggled afterwards. In hindsight, you maybe realise there were more chances to come. But, at the time, you get a chance that’s within your control, you want to take it.”
As was the case when he returned to Royal Birkdale for the first time since his triumph there, Harrington is determined to enjoy his week back at Carnoustie.
“I kind of like being back here,” said the long-time Wilson Staff player. “It’s nice to be centre of attention. I’ve got to this stage of my career where I embrace that more. When you are playing and winning you push awards and all that stuff to the back. You try to take very little heed of it.
“But, when you get longer in the tooth, every time something like this comes up you are happy about it. I made the effort at Birkdale to enjoy the week and I will make the effort here. Next year is Portrush, so I will enjoy that too.
“I don’t want to be sitting here in 30 years time saying that when I went back as defending champion I was grinding it out, working hard and didn’t take stock of what I’d done. I’ll take a breath on the first tee, look around and say, ‘I did it’.”
Meanwhile, 1995 winner John Daly has pulled out this week with a knee injury.