When assessing why a Open Championship play-off has been won by one player and not the other, you have to take into account age and experience. You have to factor in the quality of their game. Then and most importantly of all, you have to throw into the mix their mental application. How they would be thinking about themselves. Their last afternoon’s work. Victory spurned. Their opponents. Any slivers of doubt and uncertainty would tilt the advantage away from them.
When we learn of Padraig Harrington’s attitude to the play-off, it starts to become clear why he is now the Open Champion. When he went to the putting green, he looked at Bob Rotella and said, ‘I’m good. When you see me out in the play-off, doing this with my hand (waving it in the air like a salute) you are going to think I’m waving, but I am raising the Claret Jug to the sky’.
This is the mental preparation of an Open Champion. He is preparing exactly for the outcome that he wants. He is establishing a mental blueprint. Creating future history. Like Muhammad Ali and his famous pre-fight predictions.
Harrington’s raised arm to the crowd technique works on a number of levels. Firstly it puts him in the state or feeling of an Open Champion. A place beyond hope or maybe. Doubts removed. I am the Open Champion. This allows him to negotiate the play-off as the Open Champion in waiting. A place of strength.
Secondly the feeling becomes powered and enhanced by the ringing applause of the crowd. They are confirming him in his intention. Endorsing him. He is holding the Claret Jug aloft. They are applauding him. Should we be surprised that this outcome manifests itself twenty minutes later? As Marcus Aurelius said, ‘You become what you think about’.
Sergio Garcia would have to be even better mentally prepared to win this battle. This play-off may not have come down to who was the best player. But who had done the smartest mental preparation. Padraig Harrington’s thoroughness was worthy of a true champion.