Harrington anxious to halt steady slide

 

IN GOLF, results speak for themselves; and, so far this year, Pádraig Harrington’s results – albeit in a season distorted by a disqualification on one occasion and hampered by injuries on others – have been poor by his standards.

A slippery slope, perhaps? Certainly, the Dubliner’s own concern was shown in a three-hour session with his mind guru, Dr Bob Rotella, here at Congressional Country Club ahead of the 111th US Open which starts tomorrow.

Harrington, the man whose three Major wins in 2007/2008 proved the catalyst for a European surge which has seen Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer emulate him as Major champions and Luke Donald and Lee Westwood vie for the world number one position, has – in slipping from a career high third to a current 52nd in the world rankings – become something of a peripheral figure in these championships.

Now, Harrington – a player with 19 international tour wins, including wins in the British Opens of 2007 and 2008 and the US PGA in 2008 – has admitted that his discussions with Rotella have concentrated on, as he puts it, “where my head is at” and on the fact that he is probably “trying a little too hard”.

Since winning the US PGA at Oakland Hills in 2008, Harrington’s run in the Majors has been hugely disappointing with five missed cuts from nine appearances. In fact, the stat looks worse when you consider he has missed the cut in four of his last five Majors. In that same time frame, he has only mustered one top-10 (in the 2009 US PGA).

The 39-year-old Dubliner is, quite naturally, more anxious than anyone to reverse that run of poor form; and, having suffered from a neck injury at the Masters in April and from a hamstring-cum-knee injury which surfaced at The Players in March and kept him out of last month’s BMW PGA at Wentworth, he reports a clean bill of health ahead of facing the examination at Congressional. “I’m 100 per cent. I’m in good stead,” he said.

His sessions with Rotella are designed to offset that inclination to push things on the course. As he put it, “there’s no doubt a constant theme working with Bob Rotella is I’m just trying a little too hard. It’s very tough to get a balance on that.

“I just have to let it happen. I’d be happier with my golf game now than ever. I’m just trying a little bit too hard and just putting myself under a little too much pressure and not letting it happen.

“In the end of the day, it’s always difficult to match those two up. Which comes first? Do you let the results happen and get the confidence from that? Or do you have the confidence first and the results follow. I know it’s more about self-confidence than anything. It’s really about letting it happen.”

In fact, Harrington has changed his pre-shot routine in an attempt to take away the pressure. “There’s just a little too much tension from me trying too hard – I’m just trying to strike a nice balance off the golf course, on the golf course and basically what I’m thinking about as I’m swinging the club, looking for a nice key word to keep myself nice and smooth and not to put too much effort into it. Not to try too hard.”

He added: “My key isn’t working at the moment so we have to figure a way . . . everybody has their way of pulling the trigger and mine, focusing on the target, is very stale at the moment. I am trying hard to do it and because it is stale I am trying harder and that is not helping. So I just have to figure a way out of being a little bit more – mellow? – on it.”

Harrington’s search for a softer key may be part of the mind game involved in getting all aspects of a player’s game into the shape capable of winning another Major, but – deep down – the old belief is there. When queried on whether he can get into contention this week, he remained positive.

“I wouldn’t play if I didn’t (think so),” he responded first, before giving a mellower addendum. “Well, I probably would play . . . Yeah, I fully believe that I can (contend).”

HARRINGTON’S 2011 RECORD

Abu Dhabi Championship DQ

Champions, Bahrain 58th

Pebble Beach Pro-Am T-68th

Los Angeles Open T-55th

Accenture Matchplay T-33rd

WGC Championship T-10th

Transitions MC

Houston Open T-8th

US Masters MC

Volvo China Open MC

Quail Hollow T-9th

The Players MC

St Jude Classic T-52nd

OVERALL RECORD

Tournaments 13

Wins 0

Top-10s 3

Missed Cuts 4

Disqualified 1