Harrington still up for the fight to return to the top

Three-time Major champion has slipped to 206th in the latest official world rankings

The old saying about taking the rough with the smooth can wear a bit thin when nothing seems to be going your way. Take Pádraig Harrington. An accident last week in Charlotte – when a cable snapped whilst he worked out in the local YMCA gym – has left him with the legacy of a stiff neck, a reminder to him that rather scary things can happen off the golf course.

Unfortunately for Harrington, there has been no easy ride of late on the golf course either. The three-time Major champion has slipped to 206th in the latest official world rankings and is no longer an automatic entry in to some of golf’s biggest events, missing last month’s Masters and this week’s Players championship. Still, his hunger to get back up the golfing ladder remains unabated. As he quipped, “I’m not going into TV commentary just yet.”

Harrington, in Dublin yesterday to launch the Confederation of Golf in Ireland’s development plan outlining the organisation’s strategic vision for the future of the sport here, returns to tournament action in next week’s Byron Nelson Classic on the US Tour before retreating back to Wentworth for the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA championship.

And if there is obvious frustration at a run of form that has seen him miss the cut more often than make it on tour this season, Harrington - who has demonstrated mental fortitude throughout his career – insisted: “I am frustrated, but [frustration] ain’t going to win the battle. I am going to win it.”


To that end, Harrington – stiff neck or not – has practiced into the twilight hours this past few evenings working on his game in seeking the light at the end of the tunnel. “I am at my happiest when I am trying to find out [things], to get back to what works. And for sure there are always ideas and new strategy and a new plan,” admitted the Dubliner, who has identified a couple of areas of his game that need improvement.

Approach play
One is putting; the other is in his approach play from between 100 and 150 yards.

“It is such an unglamorous area of the game,” said Harrington of that poor approach play which came to light at some studious analysis of his stats. In fact, he has changed the lofts of the wedges he carries in his bag, replacing the 46-, 50-, 55- and 60-degree wedges with just three of 46-, 52- and 58-degrees in an attempt to gain better distance control.

Of the CGI’s vision to attract more families into golf in Ireland and to boost the numbers playing the sport, Harrington observed: “I think golf is a great sport for kids as long as they balance it up with other sports. There is many elements in golf that kids learn that are superb. There is the discipline of good manners, etiquette on the golf course, the responsibility to learn, the integrity of not cheating. But it is a very selfish game, so if it is not balanced up it can be a dangerous sport to play as an individual sport as your only sport.

“Learning to win and lose is very important in team sports, learning how to have empathy with your team-mates when you have had a good day and the team has lost, or if the team has won and you’ve had a bad day. All those things are very important for life but golf brings in a lot of other elements, the integrity, it is just a brilliant game for that . . . Everyone should have a bit of golf in their lives.”


The full CGI’s Development Plan is available to view on www.cgigolf.org

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times