Padraig Harrington has been a member of the world's top 50 since October 1999 -- a month after he made his Ryder Cup debut in the cauldron that was Brookline in Boston. But the three-time major champion is clinging onto that place this week, 50th by 0.007 points over Japanese teenager Ryo Ishikawa, and almost certain to drop out next Monday.
Harrington is on another week off recovering from his knee injury, but all set to return in Memphis next Thursday -- and far from despondent about his slide down the rankings with the U.S. Open coming up fast.
2011 SAAB WALES OPEN
The 2011 Saab Wales Open is the first big event played at Celtic Manor since last autumn's dramatic Ryder Cup.
"I don't want to drop out of the top 50, but what can I do?,” said Harrington, who was third behind Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia just over two years ago -- how times have changed for all three. "It's not through lack of trying and I feel my game's in great shape. I think I'm in a position to go forward.
"I'm not panicking about dropping out of the top 50 and it's not in itself a big issue,” he added. “There's a big summer ahead and I'm very happy with my game, what I'm doing and where I'm at. I'm doing the right things that will lead to results."
While Garcia's fall outside the leading 50 has had implications already, putting him into a qualifier for the British Open last week that he withdrew from with an infected fingernail -- Harrington doesn’t have to worry about that sort of thing yet. His wins over Garcia at both Carnoustie in 2007 and the PGA Championship the following season guarantee him a long run in the majors.
But if he does start sliding further, he could find himself on the outside looking in for events like the World Golf Championships.
Harrington was invited to a reception during President Obama's recent visit to Ireland and found himself in conversation with Irish rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll.
"Three years ago they were writing that he would have to leave Ireland because he'd won no trophies and it was time for a change,” Harrington said. "Now he's falling over himself for trophies. Professional golf is the same -- you go through periods where no matter how hard you try to win you just don't.
"And you go through periods where you can't do anything wrong,” he added. “It's a tough game and you just have to be patient."
Being patient during an injury is part of that and to avoid the temptation of resuming practice too soon -- or watching the BMW PGA Championship going on without him -- so he went off to Monte Carlo for the Monaco Grand Prix.
This week, though, he is making a trip to Royal St. George’s, not just to take a look at the course where July's British Open takes place, but also to visit the adjoining Prince's Club. On Wednesday, Harrington christened a new bunker named in memory of the legendary Gene Sarazen, who won the 1932 Open on the course with the help of a club he invented especially for the event -- the modern sand wedge.
Sarazen, like Harrington, played Wilson clubs and Harrington held Sarazen’s original hickory-shafted sand wedge in the deep, sod-faced bunker left of the ninth green.
Sarazen won the Claret Jug by five on Prince's only staging of the championship and three years later at Augusta -- in only the second Masters played -- became the first man to capture all four major titles.
Harrington, of course, is halfway to becoming the first European to do so and, despite his world ranking position, he has not given up that hope yet.