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Padraig Harrington even has the Tiger Woods fist pump down pat. (Shamus/Getty Images)

Second straight major makes Harrington Tiger-like

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Padraig Harrington paused Sunday when asked if he was in Tiger Woods' company. But two majors in a row and three out of the past six proves that he's answered every question about his game.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. - He's won three of the past six majors, including the last two in a row after Sunday's grueling gut-check of a victory in the 90th PGA Championship.

Remind you of anyone? Of course it does.

"That's Tiger-like right there," Ben Curtis said simply after finishing second to the Padraig Harrington in a marathon day at Oakland Hills. "He knows how to win. He's not afraid to win. And that's what it takes."

It does, indeed. Harrington embraces the challenge like the absent Tiger Woods and over the past 13 months, he has shown the same penchant for winning on the game's grandest stages as the world No. 1.

"I love the idea of the back nine of a major on a Sunday," the Irishman said. "I love it so much that I'm actually disappointed I'm seven months away from the next major, and I don't know what I'm going to do."

So the Paddy-Slam will have to wait. But Harrington's victory at the PGA Championship, where he shot a pair of 66s on the weekend, has thrust him squarely into the conversation as the PGA TOUR Player of the Year. With good reason, too.

Sure, Woods won the U.S. Open on one leg and had three other victories before opting for reconstructive surgery on his left knee. But even Woods can understand how rare it is to win consecutive majors like Harrington has just done.

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The pensive Irishman is the first European to win the PGA Championship since Tommy Armour in 1930. He's also the only player from across the pond to win two majors in a single year, a stat that Harrington found particularly meaningful.

"I obvious hold a lot of European players who I grew up watching in high esteem," he said. "To believe that I achieved something that they hadn't is very special."

To hear his name mentioned as a challenger to Woods also gave Harrington pause. He's been the leading player in Europe for the last six years or so, yet he still got questions that he seems now to have answered once and for all.

"That's a nice question to ask," he said. "It is a big step now to move up now and start competing on a different level. I'm world No. 3. I've got Phil; I've got Tiger ahead of me. I don't necessarily pay attention to what they're doing. I pay attention to more to what I'm doing. Do I believe I can improve as a player? Yes. I do believe I can improve as a player? There's plenty of my game to improve."

Even now, Harrington, whose penchant for practice approaches that of Vijay Singh, characterizes himself as a "learner of the game." He identifies something he needs to work on, and then focuses on it until he's satisfied he's made the grade.

"But it's always taken some time," Harrington said. "Many periods in my career, I've had lulls where I've been in between things, and come out stronger. I'm looking at this period as one of those that I am coming out stronger with experience and I'm putting a lot more things together. I'm making things happen on the golf course and applying myself.

"It is a long way to catch Tiger at the top. But I know that the only way of focusing on doing that is focusing on me, what I'm doing, controlling what I can do; I can't control Tiger or Phil. So just pay attention to what I'm doing and continually try and strive to improve. That's the only thing I can ask of myself."

It's hard to imagine the Dubliner can find much lacking in his game right now, though.

On Sunday, he went head-to-head with Sergio Garcia, the same man he beat in that playoff at Carnoustie last summer and the one who must now shoulder the "best-player-never-to-have-won-a-major" tag for another year. The Irishman wasn't feeling on top of his game, but he thrived on the pressure just the same.

When the Spaniard gave Harrington an opening, hitting his approach at the 16th hole into the water, the Irishman knew exactly what to do. He proceeded to roll in clutch putts on the final three holes, two for pars and one for birdie to seal the win.

With each shot as the margin for error narrowed, the steely determination could be seen in Harrington's dark eyes and the way he appeared to bite his lower lip. And the exuberant triple fist pump that followed the 10-footer to save par - and the championship - at the 72nd hole would have made even Woods proud.

"The only thing from experience that I know is that in a major, nobody goes without making some mistakes," Harrington said. "So as long as I could hang in there, I knew that I would get my opportunity; and if it was going to be my day, I would take that opportunity.

"I'm a great believer in making it your own responsibility whether you win or you don't win. ...
It's all about that in a major. It's to get to the back nine in the last round and have the responsibility that it's on your head whether you win or you don't win. You take the shots and you take the responsibility.

"Some days, it won't go for you and you have to be prepared to handle that. ...
But you've got to know, you've got to take them on on the back nine. You're not going to win any other way."

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