Durban ideal season opener for Harrington

No cut in Volvo Masters means this could be an easy start to his 19th full season on tour

Pádraig Harrington returns to tournament action 
as a hardened veteran
buoyed by a winter’s break that nonetheless included further work on his short game.  Photograph Brenda Fitzsimons

Pádraig Harrington returns to tournament action as a hardened veteran buoyed by a winter’s break that nonetheless included further work on his short game. Photograph Brenda Fitzsimons

Tue, Jan 7, 2014, 01:00

Another fresh start to a season begins for Pádraig Harrington in South Africa on Thursday. The Dubliner has fallen to 131st in the world as he embarks on a new campaign – his 19th full season on tour – in the Volvo Champions at Durban and admitting to a sense of intrigue about the year ahead.

The Volvo tournament – which has no cut and a 36-man field – is an ideal starting point and offers Harrington, who hasn’t played since the Turkish Airlines Open last November, a chance to hit the ground running on the European Tour before he gravitates stateside to the PGA Tour.

Harrington, who will move on to next week’s Abu Dhabi Championship, is one of four Irish players – along with Michael Hoey, Simon Thornton and a slimmer and trimmer Darren Clarke – in the field this week for the €3 million tournament. The winner will claim a cheque for €518,519 and the minimum prizemoney is in excess of €25,000.

Hugely disappointing
Although last season was hugely disappointing for Harrington, failing to make the play-offs for either the FedEx Cup in the United States or the Race to Dubai finale on the European Tour, the 42-year-old returns to tournament action buoyed by a winter’s break that nonetheless included further work on his short game.

Of the season ahead, Harrington – in an interview on Newstalk – confessed, “I am actually intrigued by it. I think a couple of things went wrong for me (in 2013) in terms of, at the start of the year, I was wearing glasses on the course.

“The glasses have helped me, (but) they didn’t help me on the golf course. I hit my wedges fat and I went from being the best wedge player to the worst wedge player on tour and I never recovered from that feeling for the rest of the year.

“My driver broke then, in the middle of the season, just after the Masters, and I didn’t get a really nice driver until the (British) Open. So it was nearly two, three months that slightly threw me out.

“What I’m interested to see, if I play the same way I played at the end of the year, I didn’t quite get enough events in maybe at that stage, (when) I thought I was in great form, that a win was only around the corner . . . I will be interested to see if I come out and play as well and obviously get the results, in terms of results being the most important thing and what you are going to be judged on at the end of the day.”

As things stand, he is not in the field for the US Masters in April: to claim an invitation he needs to move into the world’s top-50 or, alternatively, to win an event on the PGA Tour ahead of Augusta.