Olympic torch reignites the dwindling flame within Padraig Harrington

Last week Padraig Harrington stood beside Paul McGinley as his vice-captain at the Ryder Cup, and the 43-year-old followed that up with a very good 66 at Carnoustie yesterday. However, it wasn’t the excitement of Gleneagles that reignited Harrington’s passion for the game, but the return of golf to the Olympics.

Despite finishing with two bogeys, the Irishman was happy that he had returned to the scene of the first of his three major wins – the 2007 Open – with a six-under first round. That result has left him third with Shane Lowry, two off the pace set at Carnoustie by England’s Oliver Wilson who is enjoying a course record-equalling 64.

The timing of Harrington’s turnaround in form couldn’t be better after he slipped to 324th in the world, marking his lowest ranking since his first year as a pro in 1996. And after his round, Harrington broke a career habit by setting out his ambitions.

"I don't normally tell the media my goals, but I will this time," he said.

"My aim is to return to the world top 15 by 2016 for the Olympics. It makes no difference where I am in the world now because I've got 21 months of results counting from here.

"I'd just love to be an Olympic athlete. It'd be very special. That's my focus, but if I achieve it, it means I'll have done other things that are quite good, too."

The golfing world should beware Harrington’s admission; if he really wants to reach the Olympics in 2016 then he’ll be going gun for leather in his pursuit of a world top 15 place. It could be an exciting couple of years.

Padraig Harrington uses Wilson Staff golf equipment, plays with Titleist golf balls and wears FootJoy clothing, all of which is available now at american golf.