Clueless Padraig 'amazes' Cowen
GOLF'S hottest coach Pete Cowen was "amazed" to discover how far Padraig Harrington had strayed into the wilderness.
Though he'd vowed not to take on any more clients, Cowen happily obliged when Harrington, a friend-in-need, asked him to take a look at his swing during the Bridgestone last weekend.
"It is very, very difficult to take anybody on at my age," explained Cowen, determined to fulfil a promise to his wife to wind down his career at age 60.
"But I've known Padraig since he started and he asked me as a friend if I'd give him an opinion on his golf swing and why it's obviously not working as well as it should.
"I asked him what he was working on and he actually didn't know, which I found amazing. Padraig said: 'Well I don't know. I haven't got a clue.'
"So, I asked what he'd worked on in the past and he said 'this, this and this, but I don't really understand ... '"
Harrington split from long-time coach Bob Torrance at the recent Irish Open after 13 years in which the Ben Hogan philosophy of "digging it out of the dirt" on the practice range yielded a phenomenal three Major titles.
In recent times, however, Harrington's views on how best to break a run of nearly three years without a win on the US or European Tours started him down a different path to his coach.
As he explained in Killarney, he needed to hit fewer golf balls and spend more time concentrating on his short game and the mental side of golf.
During a conversation with Cowen last weekend in Akron and again here on Monday as he played the front nine at Atlanta Athletic Club, venue for this week's US PGA Championship, Harrington liked what he heard.
Asked yesterday if he'd be adding Harrington to his list of full-time clients, Cowen said: "No, I'm just giving an opinion. I'm telling him what he's got to do to improve.
"I'm not saying it would be full-time. I don't think I can give him the time he'd need, because Padraig's high maintenance...though he doesn't require the high-maintenance he thinks he needs.
"What I could do is occasionally go down to his house on my weeks off and just do a day with him and put him on the right track.
"Padraig needs to understand his practice has got to be as productive as it can be to lead to improvement.
"If it's not productive, he's just bashing balls. I see myself in that.
"As a player, I thought bashing more and more balls would actually do it, but if I'd my time over again, I wouldn't bash anywhere near as many balls."
After examining a player's technique, Cowen consults with specialists in bio-mechanics and physiology and together they construct a practice and muscle development regime to produce a more stable platform for the golf swing.
"Padraig would not have to hit as many balls," insisted Cowen, whose success can be measured in results.
His 18 top-class clients include three of the last six Major winners, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen, plus one of this week's favourites in Atlanta, Lee Westwood.
"Pete's the man of the moment," Harrington said. "The fact that all his players swing the club differently is impressive.
"You don't want a coach who forces one swing onto everybody. You want a coach that teaches the player."
Explaining that a tendency to lift his arms and shoulders in the backswing has been "a big bugbear of mine for quite a long time," Harrington was encouraged when Cowen "went for that straight away when we spoke.
"When I lift my shoulders and arms, that changes the backswing," Harrington went on.
"Obviously, if I'm off-plane I have to try and correct, which demands perfect timing.
"This in turn requires you to be on top form, physically and mentally. What we're trying to do is cut that out a little so I play decent golf when everything isn't firing on all cylinders."
There's no quick cure for this week or even the busy months ahead.
"I'm wise enough at this stage to realise I'm not going to work in a new golf swing in the week of a Major," admitted Harrington.
At least the Dubliner can now see a way out of the fog.
US PGA DRAW IN FACTFILE