Harrington fighting fit for Irish Open challenge at Royal County Down
Three-time Major champion gets extensive treatment to overcome a shoulder injury
Miguel Angel Jimenez in lighthearted form during practice for the Irish Open at Royal County Down GC yesterday. Photo: Matt Mackey/Inpho/Presseye
Pádraig Harrington doesn’t mind letting you in on a secret: he isn’t a particularly good patient, not these days.
“There are a few expletives,” he said of his time spent out of necessity on the physio table for the past week, adding: “Having somebody stick their elbow into a muscle that’s very sore isn’t pleasant.”
But, then, it’s a case of needs must as he seeks to regain full fitness ahead of the Irish Open here at the famed links under Slieve Donard.
That “somebody” in question is physiotherapist Shane Lawlor who, it must be said, is more than an elbow and hands manipulator.
In the treatment of his injured shoulder muscle, Harrington – who initially got an ultrasound scan to evaluate the extent of the damage – has also received acupuncture and laser treatment which has ensured he is ready to play. He has been paired with Sergio Garcia and holder Mikko Ilonen.
As if to underline the only reason why it is he is only “almost 100 per cent” certain to play, the Dubliner quipped: “Well, you could be struck by a meteor or something . . . no, I will crawl to the tee if necessary.”
If Harrington’s pain threshold has reduced in recent times – “I can take a certain level of pain, go to a certain level, but my tolerance for spending an hour taking that pain has dropped off,” he confessed – it is perhaps worth pointing out that he has had in excess of 5,000 physio treatments as he has had a full-time physio on tour with him since 1999 and, for those 16 years, had undergone sessions six days a week.
And, in its own way, it is remarkable that this latest muscle strain – one to the infraspinatus muscle in his left shoulder’s rotator cuff – proved to be the one that forced him to retire from a tournament, last week’s BMW PGA at Wentworth, for the first time in his career.
Since then, though, he has completed 36-holes of US Open qualifying (missing out on a play-off spot to get into the field for Chambers Bay by one shot) at Walton Heath on Monday.
Now, it is about focusing in on the Irish Open and, although the injury continues to receive treatment and an afternoon tee time in the first round will enable an extra few hours before re-entering the battle field, Harrington believes he is under less pressure than the rest of the home contingent for the simple reason that he already won one, at Adare Manor in 2007.
For sure, he would like to win another Irish Open title; and, also, there is the added incentive – if it were needed – of seeking to gatecrash that field for Chambers Bay as a top-three finish here would give Harrington sufficient ranking points to get into the world’s top-60. So, very much all to play for.
Not that Harrington has too much local knowledge to take to the first tee. He only played the course twice as an amateur – on Hilary Society outings, and those in the depth of winter – and got reacquainted last month on a reconnaissance trip. “I really, really loved the course,” he said.
The weather forecast, however, isn’t exactly predicting sunshine and a gentle breeze; rather, players can expect cool even cold weather with strong winds.
What set-up would Harrington like in such conditions from the tour?
“I would prefer they put it up to us, absolutely. I would rather see level-par win this week than 18-under par . . . but, you know, with a tough forecast, I would suggest that they are more likely to go easy than not. I don’t have control over that. The type of golf courses I win on are tough golf courses, so I like to see the tough venues.”
“I think Rory’s support this year has pushed it to a new level, probably a level on the world stage more so than the European stage. It’s really stepped up a gear . . . it’s where we want the Irish Open to be.”
And barring being struck by a meteor, Harrington aims to be in the thick of it.