Harrington in no mood to pass up chance of Major revival

Irish man ‘working hard’ ahead of date with Woods and Mickelson in PGA opening round

 Pádraig Harrington: hits from a bunker at the 14th green during practice for the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Illinois, USA. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

Pádraig Harrington: hits from a bunker at the 14th green during practice for the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Illinois, USA. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

 

The planning is as meticulous as ever, his caddie Rónán Flood conveying the numbers from the yardage book and Pádraig Harrington absorbing them in his head.

Practice rounds are there for a reason and, in the Dubliner’s case, it is about getting reacquainted with familiar terrain. After all, he was here in 2000, for a PGA won by Tiger Woods, and again in 2008, for a Ryder Cup won by the United States.

At that Ryder Cup, Harrington was the star attraction but also a spent man, his energy sapped by a wonderfully outrageous summer that saw him lift the Claret Jug and the Wanamaker Trophy in the season’s final two Majors.

He was the last player to win back-to-back Majors, a feat only accomplished by two other current tour players: Woods and Mickelson.

This time, there is no problem with energy levels. The problem is in keeping his head clear. There have been sessions with Dr Bob Rotella this week, all part of the fuelling process to feed his desire to return to the level he once attained. In truth, 2008 is a long six years away.

These days, Harrington is fighting to keep his card on the PGA Tour (he is 188th on the FedEx Cup ranking) and searching for a week when he finally gets to contend again.

“The game is good but, mentally, I am getting in my own way. I am working hard to get out of it and every week I hope it is going to be the week I do. So, it’s all a bit like a work in progress . . . I’ve always known that the mental side of things is the area I excel in.

‘Too much pressure’

Phil Mickelson

Who knows? Perhaps being thrown into the frenzy that invariably attaches to Woods’s every move will actually benefit Harrington, who confessed that his on-going battle of wills with himself “has eaten away at me a bit.”

Harrington has struggled with his game this season, certainly in terms of results. He has not managed a top 10 on the US Tour all season – his best finish being tied 22nd at the Byron Nelson – and has only two tournaments left, this week’s PGA and next week’s Wyndham championship, to dramatically turn things around if he is to keep his card and/or make it into the FedEx Cup play-offs.

Capable and able

“Four of them would be nice,” said Harrington, a smile creasing his facial features.

“But, then, I don’t have much momentum in the game [at the moment]. You can see that in plenty of players, that when they do get a good result, they continue to have good results. I haven’t been doing that.

“Physically, there is nothing wrong with the game at all . . . yes, I could do with the momentum and, yes, I could do with getting out of my own way. But all of those things are very logical and easily said, but a lot harder to do.”

Maybe the distraction of having Messrs Woods and Mickelson as company for at least the next two days could provide the remedy.

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