Surprise, surprise, Padraig Harrington has been named the 2008 European Tour Golfer of the Year.
Harrington was a red-hot favourite to carry off the top prize which crowned a truly sensational season for the Irishman during which he firmly established himself as one of the top five players in the world.
In a glorious three week spell in mid-summer, the 37 year old Dubliner successfully defended The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale – the first European golfer to achieve the feat since Scotland’s James Braid in 1905-06 – before becoming the first European golfer since Scotland’s Tommy Armour in 1930 to win the US PGA Championship at Oakland Hills.
This notable double led to another as Harrington received The European Tour Golfer of the Year Award – voted for by a panel comprising representatives of the Association of Golf Writers (AGW), Television, Radio and The European Tour – for the second year in succession, having accepted the accolade in 2007 following his first Open Championship victory at Carnoustie.
He moves alongside Bernhard Langer and Lee Westwood as double winners of the award – first presented in 1985 – and joint fifth in the all time list which is topped by Colin Montgomerie with four wins, followed by Severiano Ballesteros, Ernie Els and Nick Faldo with three wins apiece.
Joining such illustrious company in the annals of golfing history is something the three time Major Championship winner admitted fills him with a considerable sense of pride and achievement.
“When you look at the names of the people who have won The European Tour Golfer of the Year over the past 23 seasons, it certainly shows the standing of the award in the world of golf,” said Harrington.
“It is very pleasing to be considered alongside these great players and also a great honour to have been voted ahead of some very fine contenders, not just this year, but last year as well. It has been a very strong couple of years for European golf which makes this achievement all the more memorable.
“I am sure that in 20 years time, when I am sitting back at home reflecting on my career, I might hear somebody – perhaps even one of my sons – say they’d heard some player or another had been announced as The European Tour Golfer of the Year. At that moment I’d be able to say to them; ‘Hey, I won that twice you know,’ and I’d be proud to do so.”
European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady led the tributes to Harrington. “Padraig’s remarkable accomplishment in successfully defending The Open Championship then, 21 days later, completing a unique double by capturing the US PGA Championship, quite rightly earned him The European Tour Golfer of the Year Award and, from many observers, also the accolade of the greatest sportsman in Ireland’s history.”
Emphasising the ever-increasing strength in depth apparent on The European Tour International Schedule, despite his double Major triumph, the one thing Harrington did not win in 2008 was The Harry Vardon Trophy; the accolade for finishing European Number One going to Sweden’s Robert Karlsson who ended the season with €2,732,748 to his name, some €273, 639 ahead of the Irishman who finished second with €2,459,109.
However Harrington, who won The Harry Vardon Trophy in 2006 and who has been in the top three an astonishing seven times in the past eight seasons, paid tribute to Karlsson who won the Mercedes-Benz Championship and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in a season where he also recorded a further ten top ten finishes and won the Omega Mission Hills World Cup for Sweden in partnership with Henrik Stenson.
“I’m delighted that Robert won The Harry Vardon Trophy and became the first Swedish player to do so,” said Harrington. “He is a nice guy and he played great golf all year. This has shown the quality of his play and how much he has improved over the years and so, as much as I would have liked to have won it, I am thrilled that he did.”