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When he had to execute crucial shots at Royal Birkdale, Padraig Harrington was well-prepared to do so. (Lyons/Getty Images)

Open champ Harrington says fear motivates him to always try harder

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A day after winning his second Open Championship in a row, Padraig Harrington admitted that his greatest motivation has been, and always will be, fear of failure.

SOUTHPORT, England (AP) - Padraig Harrington stared at the Claret Jug after winning his second straight Open Championship, and thanked his greatest motivator: fear of failure.

He won by four strokes at Royal Birkdale on Sunday, a year after beating Sergio Garcia in a playoff at Carnoustie. Harrington joined a select group of back-to-back winners of golf's oldest major, and became the first European in more than a century to win the Open in consecutive years.

The 36-year-old Irishman said he has spent his career having to prove he's a winner rather than relying on natural talent. Working on his mental approach, especially at the start of every year, has been crucial to that.

"Fear is, and will be always, the motivator with my golf," said Harrington, whose last two wins have been at the Open.

"Every time I took my winter break, I was very anxious that my game would still be there when I came out. You can see from my results that I was always good from the start of the year because I'm anxious to come out and prove myself again."

Harrington spoiled 53-year-old Greg Norman's bid to become the oldest major winner -- 15 years after his last triumph, the Open Championship at Royal St. George's. He then fended off a late surge by Ian Poulter, who was trying to become England?s first Open champion since Nick Faldo in 1992.

Harrington finished with a 1-under 69 for a 3-over total of 283 to beat Poulter by four strokes and Norman and Henrik Stenson by six.

What sounds like a comfortable victory was far from it. The wind howled across Royal Birkdale for two straight days and the outcome was in doubt until Harrington's long approach to the 17th green set up an eagle putt.

He looked relaxed Monday as he sat with the trophy in front of him, but said that even after he won at Carnoustie last year, he still had fears he might join the list of players who win one major and then virtually disappear.

"I have become more comfortable in the past number of years in terms of knowing a certain level of my game would be there," he said. "But definitely after winning a major last year, the biggest fear was not to go down the road of guys who have won majors and struggled to keep the intensity after that.

"So, fear is a big part of me and I'd like to say that I have all the trust and patience and like to relax, but that's not my make-up. (Fear) pushes me on and keeps me practicing, keeps me getting into the gym, so I have to work with it and use it."

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