Harrington eyeing the missing link to rediscovering his very best again

Pádraig Harrington tees off yesterday in the second round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty

Pádraig Harrington tees off yesterday in the second round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty

Sat, Mar 9, 2013, 00:00

Golf WGC-Cadillac Championship: Even without glasses, Pádraig Harrington can clearly see light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

More than four-and-a-half years after the most recent of his three Major wins, the Dubliner appears closer than ever to putting the whole package together again.

The question is: why would a 41-year old man with 20-20 vision want to wear glasses in competition for the first time this week? If he can see perfectly without them, what’s the benefit?

The answer lies in the way Harrington’s eyes ‘see’ things. As a junior golfer he had a tendency to over-read every putt “a fraction” right to left. But over the course of time and four laser surgeries, his eyes have changed and he now sees things with a left to right bias.

Like Ernie Els, who took steps to work on his vision last year and won his fourth Major and second Claret Jug at Royal Lytham last July, Harrington started to work with Belfast based sports vision company SV:EYE at the end of last year to retrain his eyes.

“I’m perfectly fine in terms of what I can see,” he said. “These make it better, but really I have astigmatism, like a lot of people. I grew up with a bias to reading putts right to left, so if I saw an eight-foot putt that was straight, as a kid, I’d aim right half. That’s where I would see it.

“For the last number of years, if I saw that same eight-footer, I’d actually look at it left half. Now, that’s just how my eyes have changed.”

Many putts

When a golfer doubts the lines he see, he is not going to hole many putts and Harrington looks back in some frustration at 2012 when he finished eighth in the Masters and fourth in the US Open without putting well.

“I’ve gone a good few years where the gap between what I see and what my instincts tell me creates doubt and makes me tentative,” he explained.

“I can read the greens instinctively because I know what the greens are doing but I’d like to see it as well.

“I’d like my vision to match up with my instincts. I’ve been struggling with that for a while but with these glasses it’s pretty close.”

Fifth set

The glasses make his 20-20 vision 20-10 but he still has problems marrying what his instincts and his eyes are telling him and is currently on his fifth set of glasses.

A question of not believing his eyes?

“My eyes are wrong,” he said. “I believe my instincts before my eyes. I could read every green without bending down to look at it but you’d need to be a hard man to do that.”

Apart from some minor problems with depth perception “because everything looks that bit closer”, Harrington is now busily fine-tuning his choice of spectacles.

He’s on his fifth pair in the space of four months but declared: “It’s nearly there.”

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