Harrington hopes for luck of the Irish

KEN FIDLIN

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

When the azaleas start to bloom in spring and the best players in the world return to Augusta for what Masters past-chairman Hootie Johnson used to call "our little toonamint," a player not named Tiger will be answering questions about a possible Tiger Slam.

As for Woods himself? "Hey, I'm the underdog," he says. "I want to sneak in there so nobody even knows I'm playing."

Like that's going to happen. But Irishman Padraig Harrington will be front and centre also as he attempts to win his third consecutive major championship. In the absence of Woods during the last half of last year, Harrington, building upon his 2007 British Open victory, claimed another Open in July and followed that up with an impressive, convincing victory in the PGA Championship. He will go to Augusta this April with a big target on his back, looking to win his third straight major.

"Three in a row, period," said Woods, reflecting on Harrington's challenge.

"There will be a ton of questions leading up to that. You can't avoid that.

He'll be asked that every tournament he plays at."

Woods also scoffed at the notion it was easier for Harrington in a Tiger-less world last summer. Even though Woods did not play after the third week of June, he still finished the season second to Singh on the money list, banking $5,775,000 by winning four of the six tournaments he played.

"I mean, if I'm in the field or not, it is what it is: you've still got to go out there and earn it. It's not like they were giving that trophy out -- you have to earn it, and he did," said Woods.

Woods was one of the many players who voted for Harrington as Player of the Year.

"I think in some ways the fact that I had an exceptional year has swayed the vote towards me, whereas Tiger's phenomenal year is just what we're used to with Tiger Woods. He tends to have phenomenal years every year," said Harrington. "Tiger's high standards obviously hurt him."


Videos

Photos