Padraig Harrington: My break will determine success in 2016 - Peaking too soon can be dangerous
Irish golfer Padraig Harrington is currently taking a nine week break from competitive action and believes the time out will determine his success next year.
The three-time Major winner told the audience at the Web Summit today that the break will allow him to recharge the batteries to help find a consistent level of performance throughout the coming season.
The Dubliner was discussing the dangers of peaking too early, referencing the Rugby World Cup, where many team, including Ireland, struggled to back up a huge performance with another within the space of a week.
"I want to plateau for the year," he said. "I know that sounds like a long period of time, so maybe a couple of times a year.
"My year is totally judged on how I do in the Majors, no doubt about it, but at the end of the day, peaking can be very dangerous.
"Rugby it shows up more than any other sport. You can go to the recent Rugby World Cup and every team that peaked seemed to lose the game afterwards. It's a dangerous thing, to try and get yourself to peak, unless you are an Olympic athlete which comes around every four years.
"Mostly athletes are talking about trying to sustain themselves."
While he won't be in competitive action until the New Year, Harrington will be keeping busy on the practice range, but the mental break is crucial for the 2016 season.
"This hugely determines how I perform next year. I can’t afford to get this break wrong."
It is now 20 years since Harrington turned professional but he is adamant that physically he is as good a shape as he ever was.
"I'm a pretty mature athlete at this stage.
"I've worked hard over the last 20 years in terms of training, gym work, and the benefit of that is I haven’t lost any club out speed, I still hit the ball as far as I ever did.
"I probably swing the club as well as I ever did, though not quite as good mentally."
Harrington was speaking in relation to his career longevity and the demands of elite sports performance, data and the future of sport and attributes a lot of his success to ORRECO. The Irish elite sports firm recently partnered with IBM Watson to develop Coach Watson. The application will be able to sift through complex medical data and help sports teams and doctors make decisions on training.
"In professional sport there is absolutely no shortage of data. It's everywhere. The challenge always is in making the data collected actionable. Combining ORRECO's insights and IBM cognitive computing will make for a very powerful tool and I can see Coach Watson becoming an invaluable resource for coaches and athletes alike"
After going close on a number of occasions, Harrington finally ended the search for a Major victory at the Open in 2007, before retaining the trophy the following year at Royal Birkdale. In a memorable 2008 season, he also won the PGA Championship.
While some are content with one win, Harrington revealed he drew inspiration from Phil Mickelson in order to continue the winning formula after the first Open victory.
"A lot of it in in your rhetoric, what you do," he said.
"I've seen people do it on one event, on a career, where maybe they want to win a Major. As soon as they do that they can't win anything afterwards, because that was the highlight of their career.
"When Phil Mickelson wasn't a prolific Major winner, when he was asked if he was going to win a Major, he always said, 'I'm going to win Majors'. I took from that.
"In 2006 I was getting top that stage where I was one of the best players who hadn't won a Major. When people asked me, I said, 'No, I'm going to win Majors'.
"That helped win not one, but three."
Next year is both a Ryder Cup and Olympics year, but the player ranked 127th in the world is only too well aware that unless he is challenging for contention at the Majors, he will have little part to play in either event.
The focus is firmly on adding to a fourth Major to his glittering silverware collection.
"I'll concentrate on all four Majors.
"I pretty much need to win one of those to get into the Olympics and Ryder Cup team. As much as I want to be in them, they are at the back of my mind now because I can't get into the team unless I do something spectacular."
Harrington was speaking with Niall Bruton of Irish elite sports firm ORRECO which recently partnered with IBM Watson to develop Coach Watson. The application will be able to sift through complex medical data and help sports teams and doctors make decisions on training.