Signs are good for Harrington despite injury-plagued season

Dubliner sees upcoming Irish Open as the springboard to better things this season

There have been only rare sightings of Pádraig Harrington on tour this season, mainly for medical reasons. You’d fancy your chances of coming across an eyeless spider or a giant squid quicker. He had disc surgery in his spine first. Then there was that freakish injury, when an amateur player at a corporate clinic smashed an iron into his elbow, which thankfully only resulted in soft-tissue damage but still necessitated another unscheduled hiatus.

In all Harrington has only managed 23 competitive rounds of golf, mainly on the PGA Tour, so far this year. There are hackers in clubs all over the country who have played more often than that.

But there’s an obvious freshness about the 45-year-old Dubliner this week, as he gets set to use one of this favourite events, the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, as the springboard towards the upcoming British Open at Royal Birkdale – scene of his second Claret Jug in 2008 – and then onwards to the remainder of the season.

Ready to go

He is fit and healthy, relaxed and focused. Ready. This is the start of a three-week stint on links terrain that takes in the Irish Open, the Scottish Open and the British Open. You can sense that Harrington is reinvigorated for the challenges.


For a player who has managed only four rounds in the 60s this season from 23 played, his last outing – a tied-17th in The Travelers championship in Connecticut – bodes well. Three of the four came there.

Harrington, who got an Irish Open win on his CV when he won in 2007, believes he has an edge over others when playing on a links course. He even has sticky grips so that the rain isn’t a factor.

“It suits my eye,” he states of links golf. “Clearly I would like to think I’m second to nobody when it comes to managing my way around a links golf course. I would preferably see some wind, but even sunny, baked-out golf courses provide a great test when it comes to links.”

Although, due to those injuries, there has been little evidence so far this season that he can get into contention, Harrington’s two most recent professional wins – the Honda Classic on the PGA Tour  in 2015 and the Portugal Masters on the European Tour last October – have seemed to come out of the blue. “An outlier” is how he categorised the Honda win.

But the win in Portugal came after a period of decent form through the summer and into the autumn, the irony of the win being that it came as the neck-cum-spinal injury that first manifested itself at the Olympics got worse and would ultimately lead to disc surgery in March.

Good omens

As for his game, the signs are good. “I’ve been putting very well and I’m number one statistically in the States around the greens. So, as much as I’m frustrated with my chipping, I’m better than everybody else, which is a good sign. I’m putting well, the long game [is good]. It’s about getting the head in the game and I’m working on that.”

The mental game has always been key for Harrington, and so it is again as he heads into a busy stretch. The Irish Open is first up. When asked whether he believes he can win it, he uses a quip from Shane Lowry to respond: “He says I believe I can win the weeks I’m not playing. I have to give him credit for that quote.”

Harrington’s competitive juices are what he hopes to rediscover. “Ideally I would like to get myself in contention this or next week. Because even though I have won a few out of the blue of late, it’s nice to have a competitive edge to it . . . I’d like to get into contention. That’s truly what would be a good week for me. I could have a week where I just play well and things don’t fall into place. But I know it’s around the corner.”