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Because he doesn't see himself as intimidating, Padraig Harrington believes his win at Carnoustie will encourage his fellow Europeans. (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Because he doesn't see himself as intimidating, Padraig Harrington believes his win at Carnoustie will encourage his fellow Europeans. (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Harrington hopes to become a trailblazer for Europeans

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Seve Ballesteros' victory in the 1979 Open Championship opened the door for several Europeans to win majors. After his breakthrough at Carnoustie, Padraig Harrington would love to see his contemporaries begin to enjoy major success, too.

TULSA, Okla. (PA) -- Padraig Harrington will be a very happy man if he takes on the role of Seve Ballesteros in what Europe's golfers hope is the start of a new golden era.

Harrington's dramatic triumph triumph over Sergio Garcia in the Open Championship last month ended an eight-year drought in the majors. Comparisons were immediately drawn with the impact that Ballesteros' win in the 1979 Open had on Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam and Jose Maria Olazabal.

Over a 20-year period, seven Open Championships and 11 Masters were captured by the "Super Six," and the Ryder Cup was transformed as well, of course. But what will cheer Harrington should there be a mirror image of what happened then is that he will not have to wait long for more success, while the others will.

Ballesteros went on to victories at Augusta in 1980 and 1983, then won the Open again at St. Andrews the following year. At the time he was not part of a group taking over the world game -- he was doing it on his own.

Not until Langer followed in his footsteps at the 1985 Masters did everyone start to realize a real revolution was under way.

Three months later, Lyle won the Open Championship at Sandwich. Then Faldo, having rebuilt his swing under David Leadbetter, followed suit at Muirfield. And then came the incredible run in the Masters: Lyle first, Faldo back-to-back, then Woosnam made it four in a row.

And during that period, Ballesteros added a fifth major back at the scene of his first, Royal Lytham, in 1988.

In the afterglow of his victory at Carnoustie, Harrington was relieved to have ended talk of why the most recent Ryder Cup successes had not translated into major wins.

"I definitely think we have banished the hang-up for the moment," he added. "We might get a year before it's mentioned again!

"European players know how my game is in relation to theirs and the fact that I have done it will make a lot of them believe they can do it. I don't think I'm an intimidating force," he said. "European golf is very strong. This may be the start and if it is I will be telling people I started it."

What would make people really sit up, of course, is if any of the current crop can lift either the U.S. Open or PGA Championship. Europe's last winner in either of those remains Tony Jacklin at the 1970 U.S. Open at Hazeltine.

The PGA Championship, where there has been no European winner since Tommy Armour of Scotland in 1930, completes this season's majors. Southern Hills' last major was the 2001 U.S. Open won by Retief Goosen in a playoff with Mark Brooks.

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Worringly perhaps, there was only one European in the top 20 that week, Garcia in 12th. The Spaniard was only one behind with a round to go, but then shot 77.

Harrington was 30th after a closing 74 played in the company of Tiger Woods. It was the first time he had partnered the world No. 1 , and at the time it was an eye-opening experience.

Now he takes such things in his stride and when the three major champions of this season line up together for the first two rounds, as is the tradition of the PGA Championship, it will be Harrington and not Woods in that group along with American Zach Johnson and Argentina's Angel Cabrera, a trio who until this year did not have one major among them.

That last happened in 2003 when Mike Weir, Jim Furyk and Ben Curtis all broke into the big time. They have not added to their tally since, but Harrington does not want the same to be said about him in four years' time.

Nor in a year's time.

Copyright 2007 PA Sport. All rights reserved.

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