Pádraig Harrington is expecting Gleneagles to provide a tough test of golf when The Senior Open Presented by Rolex gets under way this week.
The Irishman is making his maiden appearance in Europe’s Senior Major Championship and comes into the week having already added a Senior Major title to his two Claret Jugs and the US PGA Championship he won in 2008 after triumphing at the U.S. Senior Open earlier this month.
The 50-year-old has enjoyed a successful start to life on the over-50s circuit, having secured three runner-up finishes in addition to his triumph at Saucon Valley and will this week bid to become only the fourth man to win both The Open Championship and The Senior Open, following in the footsteps of Bob Charles, Gary Player and Tom Watson.
Harrington will be joined at Gleneagles by former Ryder Cup team-mate Colin Montgomerie, who is also bidding to win his first Senior Open title. The Scotsman has two Senior PGA Championships and a U.S. Senior Open title to his name and will now look to better his runner-up finish at Royal Porthcawl in 2014, while also avenging the near-miss at the 1992 Scottish Open on the King’s Course when he was pipped by Australia’s Peter O’Malley.
A stellar field has assembled at Gleneagles, which comprises 16 Major Champions and six former winners of The Senior Open, including defending champion Stephen Dodd four-time winner Bernhard Langer, the most successful man in the history of the Championship.
Pádraig Harrington: “I’m looking forward to it. It’s my first year on the Tour, I’ve had a few good runs, obviously winning the U.S. Senior Open was nice to get a win, I had three second places coming up to that.
“It’s interesting because it depends on the golf courses. Some of the courses suit me and I have a particularly good chance those weeks. I look at this one this week, a lot of the tee shots are downhill, there’s a lot of irons, five woods off the tee so I think it’s a tougher task this week to get a win. Whoever plays the best, whoever holes the best will do that, but I wouldn’t be jumping out this week and saying this is the course made in heaven for me. Saucon Valley was very suitable for me.
“I’m still trying to be a young guy and still trying to compete with the young guys, and very much a part of the modern game is you’ve got to be powerful out there. I’ve held my position throughout my career in terms of relative to the field. I’m in the same position now.
“I hit the golf further now than I’ve ever hit it but relatively I feel I’m in the same place I’ve always been. It gives me hope when I tee it up in events like The Open last week. I do find at a regular event, I’m always under a little bit of pressure to be at my very best. It’s very hard to be at your very best when you think you can’t take any mistakes. You know, mistakes happen more often when you feel like you can’t handle them.
“So at a regular event, it’s tough, but in my head, the only thing that lets me down at an event is not the physical side. It would be the mental side or moving into the short game, maybe my putting.
“I come to an event like this, and I don’t need it here. I know some people have talked there’s two holes with carries but every other tee shot is straight downhill here. It’s a great course. Every tee shot is downhill and every second shot is uphill, nearly.”
Colin Montgomerie: “I think it’s a great course for us Champions TOUR players, Legends Tour players to play the King’s Course. It’s got a lot more character than the PGA course or the Ryder Cup course down the road there, a lot more character. And I think it’s in fantastic shape. They’ve done a great job, and we all look forward to playing.
“The greens are all the same. There’s just a couple of new tees that they thought that we’re hitting the ball 40 yards further. So they thought they put the tee back on 12 and the tee back on 18 40 yards. The trouble is that I’m hitting the ball the same distance as I did in 1992, which is not 40 yards further.
“So I’m in trouble, and a number of us are, trying to get over the couple of saddles on 12 and also the famous saddle coming down the hill on 18 there. So depending on wind directions and stuff, you have to play accordingly. But apart from that, the course is as we remember. There’s some good shots to be hit. You’re rewarded for good shots. Bad shots will accumulate, which is good, that’s what we want.
“The three great weeks, with the Scottish Open, obviously, and The Open Championship, which was a massive success, and now here. And then, of course, we’ve got the ladies in a couple of weeks. And, of course, over at Muirfield. So we’ve got five weeks out of, what, seven that we’re in Scotland, which is fantastic. And finish off with two big ladies events, especially the AIG Women’s Open being at Muirfield for the very first time. And that will be fantastic to witness.”