Harrington aims to become the oldest Dubai Desert Classic winner

But to make history in Dubai, Harrington must play through the pain barrier of a damaged knee


Leslie Wilson Jr

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Padraig Harrington of Ireland. — AFP
Padraig Harrington of Ireland. — AFP

Published: Wed 25 Jan 2023, 11:08 PM

Despite some serious fitness issues, Padraig Harrington, one of the great survivors of the game, has returned to compete in the Hero Dubai Desert Classic when it tees off in inclement weather on Thursday morning.

A three-time major winner, Harrington, 51, is preparing for the long haul as he bids to become one of the oldest winners of the European Tour’s showpiece event

American Mark O'meara holds that distinction, having lifted the famous coffee pot in 2004 at the age of 47, when he beat close friend Tiger Woods.

But to make history, Harrington must play through the pain barrier of a damaged knee and he also has to deal with the severe weather conditions that await following Wednesday’s deluge.

However, the popular man from Dublin looks to have found a second wind by finishing a competitive fourth in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship last Sunday, only two shots behind the winner, Victor Perez.

Despite undergoing surgery to treat his damaged right knee eight years ago, Harrington admits all is not good and that he requires a repeat surgery, sooner or later.

Later will be the case as he has shut out a visit to his doctor for replacement surgery for now as he concentrates, or attempts to concentrate on once again making a name for himself on the major golf courses around the world.

Already a three-time Major winner, Harrington told reporters that he will be ‘pushing it to the limits' in Dubai.

“I always have, but you know, at this age in particular, I need a knee replacement,” he said.

“That's just it. I need three months, six months of that, and so that's not going to happen for a few years and at the moment I'm going to take my chances and put up with what I've got.

“I’m trying to keep myself somewhat okay. It's always been a balance, and when I get older, the rest side is winning out.”

Looking at some of the worried faces amongst the media at the Emirates Golf Club, Harrington spoke in an upbeat tone.

"I've felt good about my game at the end of the year, so nice to start maybe a little quicker than I expected. Always good to be in contention again. You want a chance.”

The reigning US Senior Open champion, who still looks several years younger than his age, reflected on playing the course in years gone by before the spectacular development of the Dubai Marina, overlooking the Emirates Golf Club.

Commenting on the much talked about 8th hole at the Majlis, he said: “There was nothing there when I teed it up first. The only thing on the horizon was the Hard Rock Cafe. That was it.

“The hole wasn't as difficult. We played the tee further forward, and you could carry the right side and there weren't as many bushes up there. But, it's turned into the most iconic hole.

“For me, I would still say the second shot on 18 is the one for me. That has the player under pressure,” he added.

“So everybody thinks it's a beautiful hole, the 18th, and what a beautiful shot, but the players are sweating it a bit, especially if you're in contention. So yeah, the second shot on 18 is the one that does it for me.

Ever a great ambassador for the game of golf, Harrington also lauded new Desert Classic sponsors Hero.

“There's no doubt that Hero is a great supporter of golf in general,” he said.

“It's brilliant that they are moving in now and supporting the Dubai Desert Classic. This is one of our marquee events now for 25 years on tour. It's an event that it's just one of our best events.

“This is a championship golf course. It truly is a big test. For Hero to take title sponsorship, it sort of guarantee its place in golf here, that's very important,” Harrington concluded.

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