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Being a nice guy has made Padraig Harrington a lot of fans at Carnoustie. (Stuart Franklin/WireImage)
Being a nice guy has made Padraig Harrington a lot of fans at Carnoustie. (Stuart Franklin/WireImage)

Harrington fires back at Faldo's criticism of Europeans

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Padraig Harrington takes offense at Nick Faldo's comments that the current generation of European stars is too chummy with each other to win majors. Nice guys can win he says, adding that he expects a European breakthrough to occur soon.

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (PA) -- The player seen as the one most likely to end the eight-year European drought in the majors this week doesn't believe he has to change his "nice guy" image to do it.

Ireland's Padraig Harrington was responding to comments made by six-time major winner Nick Faldo, who suggested that the current generation's "chumminess" is one of the reason the barren run goes on.

"Nice guys do win," said Harrington, who ranks among the favorites for the Open Championship behind Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson. "Everybody goes about things differently. If a friend is struggling, I'll tell him. I would want to give him some advice if I could.

"There's this image of the European team being the best of buddies, but I think that's a false image. We are for the week of the Ryder Cup, but we're competitors the rest of the time," he added. "It wouldn't be as intense as the rivalry between Faldo and Seve (Ballesteros), but that's two guys right at the top.

"At the moment maybe the Europeans haven't got up to the level of winning majors. If one wins the others will be out to hold their place in the pecking order and the rivalry may happen at that stage," he explained. "But at this stage it's just good competition, and we have an awful lot of talented young players.

"They will win majors, there's no question about it. It could happen this week," he said. "It's just a question of that little breakthrough. If I don't win this week, I'll certainly be rooting for another player I'm familiar with so that next time it will be easier because he did it."

Faldo, who celebrated his 50th birthday on Wednesday, sparked Harrington's response by saying: "Look back at Seve, myself, (Bernhard) Langer, Woosie (Ian Woosnam), Sandy Lyle and (Jose Maria) Olazabal. None of us went round together, we all kept our cards close to our chests. There was a genuine competitive barrier between us all. "We told people, 'Sod off, we're going to play golf.'

"It is interesting to me that now they are all so much more chummy. Is that healthy? I don't know, I'm just posing the question," he added. "But the bottom line is the six players I've mentioned won 18 majors and on the other side you have none.

"We had to win to have a future. Now you just have to get out there and be a very good golfer," Faldo explained. "We had to win to have a pension fund and now you get a contribution towards a pension fund simply by making halfway cuts.

"What's my conclusion about all this? I don't think I need to spell it out," he said. "Seve and I started out with nothing and ended up with 100-odd wins between us. Now they get all excited about having 20 wins between the lot of them."

While Faldo adopted tunnel vision in his pursuit of success, though, Harrington has no intention of going down the same route and, the morning after having dinner with Thomas Bjorn, added: "How do you want to live your life?"

Darren Clarke, meanwhile, reacted strongly as well.

"Yes, we are very fortunate with the lifestyle we have and we realize it's because of Tiger Woods," he said. "But that does not mean we are not desperate to win majors. We are. But not everybody who has had success did it that (Faldo's) way."

Since Paul Lawrie's victory at Carnoustie in 1999, there have been 31 majors without a European winner. In that time, 30 different Europeans have finished in the top 10 no fewer than 82 times. Sergio Garcia leads the count with 12, while Harrington is next with seven.

The 35-year-old Dubliner has gone no better than fifth in that time, but he did bogey the last hole to miss the four-man playoff at Muirfield in the 2002 Open and bogeyed the last three holes to lose by two at last year's U.S. Open.

Harrington has had success on this week's course -- it is used during the Dunhill Links Championship he won in both 2006 and 2002 -- and he tasted more success last week in the Irish PGA Championship.

"I've gone back to how I used to do it as an amateur," said Harrington, who describes the ability to bring his game to a peak for majors as an art. "Three or four weeks before, work on whatever needed to be worked on, then a lower key event to find out how it's worked into your game, then the main event.

"The more time I spend on the range the less competitive I am on the golf course," he added. "I've definitely been one to overdo it in the past and the worst thing I can do is have a week off because I practice too much. I've seen myself play very well the week after a major many times in the past."

It is nothing unique, of course, for Europe to have a long barren spell in majors. Before Ballesteros' 1979 Open win, the previous one was Tony Jacklin's 1970 victory at the U.S. Open. And before Jacklin won the Open the summer before that, there had been no wins since Max Faulkner in 1951 -- an 18-year drought.

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