Pupil calls time on long-time master


IRISH OPEN:A growing frustration has led Pádraig Harrington to end his relationship with coach Bob Torrance

A FUNDAMENTAL difference of opinion between player and coach has ultimately led to Pádraig Harrington deciding to part company with veteran swing guru Bob Torrance, the 79-year-old Scot who has been by his side for the past 15 years.

Torrance was given the news here on Saturday, where Harrington had a “free” weekend after missing the cut.

Of the point of difference between them, Torrance yesterday said: “He has been going down a road that I think is wrong. I said to him, ‘If you go down too far, you won’t come back’.

“You cannot make changes at 40 in golf. You can make them when you are in your 20s, but once you get to 40, it is too late.”

Harrington, who will turn 40 on August 31st, has been saying for some time that he needed a “spark” and that some sort of “change” was necessary.

In describing his decision to part ways with Torrance at this juncture of the season, the Dubliner said on Saturday: “This is a selfish decision at the end of the day. Where we always had a good argument, there has been less arguing of late. Just more frustration and tension rather than getting it out there.

“While I don’t want to completely break the relationship with Bob, I have got to see what else is out there.

“We haven’t split. We are having a break because I am getting very frustrated.

“Until I am ready to listen to what he has to say, we are having a break.”

Harrington has used Torrance – who described the golfer as being “like a son to me” – as coach for the best part of a decade and half. However, in recent years, Harrington has become an advocate of the Titleist Performance Institute, based in San Diego, which provides “a total picture” of a player’s body, swing and equipment.

The break-up of player and coach is nothing new in the game. Tiger Woods, for instance, moved from Butch Harman to Hank Hainey after claiming the so-called “Tiger Slam”, when he held all four Major titles at the one time. He has since moved on to Sean Foley.

But Harrington is known to be extremely loyal – to sponsors, caddies, etc – and, as Torrance rightly pointed out, a 15-year relationship between player and coach is “a long time”.

Once, Harrington had observed that he would have Torrance as his coach even if he were on a zimmer frame.

But Harrington’s slump in form, having fallen to 64th in the world coming into the Irish Open, had led to him revealing on Friday, after missing the cut, that some sort of change was required.

It would appear the kernel for the parting of the ways came about over Harrington’s insistence on persevering with a swing change that involved bringing his right elbow in closer to the body.

“He thinks he comes to the ball too much from the back. I don’t see that . . . Pádraig is saying to me, when I am standing at his back (on the range), he knows that I am saying, ‘bloody awful swing’ and he cannot concentrate. And he can’t concentrate when I’m not there.”

Torrance continued: “We discussed it and I said, ‘I don’t know what road you are taking. Do you think it is right road?’ Then I said, ‘go ahead then’. We talked about it, I told him, ‘you’re going down the wrong road’, but he carried on.”

Of Harrington’s decision to undergo swing changes after his three Major wins, Torrance observed: “I think it’s crazy. He is as high as he can go in golf, the only one he never won was the Masters and the US Open. He won two Opens in a row and then he won the (US) PGA.

“He has won tournaments all over the world.

“I don’t mind a man going for perfection, you always strive for perfection. Once you stop trying for perfection you are better to put the clubs away.

“Pádraig, he has just got his own ideas. Nothing will shift him. Once he gets on to that, that’s that. There is no in-betweens. I have nothing to say against Pádraig. I have had 15 of the happiest years of my life teaching him. Am I hurt? No, hurt is not the right word. Disappointed. But not hurt.”

Asked if he was hopeful of being reunited with his star pupil at some point, Torrance replied: “Of course I am hopeful, he’s like a son to me. We spent nine hours on the practice ground every day he was over (in Largs). In the rain. The snow. The hail. He says to me one day, ‘you won’t see many golfers practising out here today’. And I said to him, ‘you won’t see many coaches out here either’.”

He added: “His game is in bad shape because of his mind, not because of his golf.”

Graeme McDowell, though, understood Harrington’s reasoning in seeking a fresh impetus.

“Something had to break really with Pádraig. He’s been working too hard to not get any results. We all know how hard Pádraig works. He is maybe the hardest-working (player) in the game of golf. I can’t think of anyone other than maybe Vijay (Singh) who grinds like Pádraig does.

“At some point, you just need to hear something different. I know he trusts Bob and Bob has been there for a long time. But sometimes you just need to have another look at it from another pair of eyes.”