Padraig backing Tiger

Padraig Harrington believes that Tiger Woods will surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.

Woods looked a certainty to go past Nicklaus when he took his tally to 14 by winning the US Open at Torrey Pines in 2008. But he’s drawn a blank since after battling with injuries and being put through the media grinder after the sex scandal which cost him his marriage.

However, Woods has been in good health for the last few months and has also started to bed in a new swing after switching coaches from Hank Haney to Sean Foley.

The American ended a two-year winless streak by capturing the limited-field Chevron World Challenge in California last year and started his 2012 season by finishing third in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

Having watched Woods progress, Harrington now believes Tiger’s quest to catch Jack will be successful.

“I’ve played with him and the way he hits the golf ball, there wouldn’t be very many players who wouldn’t want to hit the golf ball like him,” said the Irishman.

“I’d be still backing him to beat Jack’s record, absolutely. If he turns up and plays well, he’s going to win. He’s in the position that he knows his best game is a winning game.”

Harrington does feel, though, that Woods could lose some of his drive if he moved past Nicklaus’ total of 18 majors.

“If he gets another five, motivation could hamper it,” the Irishman said. “But when he plays well, he’ll win majors, no doubt about it. He’ll win plenty of tournaments.

“There’s no question he will win plenty going forward. There are other guys out there, (but) their best game ain’t going to win them. His is still a winning game.”

However, Harrington believes that Woods has lost some of the aura which intimidated rivals for so long, Tiger’s defeat to Robert Rock in Abu Dhabi backing that feeling up.

“Over the years I’m sure he came down the last hole in many tournaments just believing that he was going to birdie it, full stop, because it’s happened so many times,” said the 40-year-old Dubliner.

“Over the last 18 months it hasn’t happened, so that leaves a little bit of doubt the next time he’s in that position. He doesn’t have the fear factor and the dominance as much to do it every week.”

Harrington and Woods are both in action at this week’s Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in California.