Having lost his father to cancer last year, Ireland’s Padraig Harrington (pictured practicing at Medinah on Monday) is able to empathise more than most with the pain currently being endured by his friend and Ryder Cup colleague Darren Clarke.
Clarke’s wife Heather lost a four year struggle with breast cancer last weekend, and Harrington has struggled to think about anything else since he heard the sad news. The news was enough to prompt Harrington into offering to withdraw from this week’s fourth Major, the USPGA Championship, which begins at Medinah just outside Chicago tomorrow. Harrington’s gesture was an offer of support to Clarke and would have enabled him to attend this weekend’s funeral, but it was declined.
Clarke has insisted that his late wife would have wanted his friends to play in the prestigious tournament, especially given its importance to Ryder Cup qualification. Harrington has agreed to play and in addition has pledged to donate all of his earnings this week to a charity of Clarke’s choice. Should Harrington win his first Major on Sunday it will be a gesture that will generate some $1.2 million.
“I’d be delighted to hand whatever over this week,” Harrington revealed on Monday.
“Obviously not being able to attend the funeral is unfortunate, but when you go to funerals you can’t be much help anyway. This is a practical way of helping. Normally you are focused on what you are doing, but for the last 48 hours it has been difficult for me to think of anything apart from Darren and his kids. It’s very hard and I’m just going to have to see how it goes this week. The situation has happened and it’s bigger than golf.”
Harrington, who has five top 5 finishes in Major championships, is still looking for his first win of the season and to rubber-stamp his Ryder Cup qualification. He finished fifth at this year’s US Open and tied for second place at the Booz Allen Classic the week after, his best performances of the season.
“Going into the tournament this week I think I’m a better player than last year. I feel good about my game and I’m confident. Perhaps sometimes this year I’ve been too relaxed. Maybe I need to go back into panic mode before a big tournament. I seem to perform OK then.”