Wednesday 18 October 2017

Harrington keeps eyes on prize for Augusta

Padraig Harrington says the glasses he wore for the first time last weekend in Miami “are here to stay”
Padraig Harrington says the glasses he wore for the first time last weekend in Miami “are here to stay”

IT flickers and burns within Padraig Harrington like an eternal flame.

Not hope – but conviction.

The Dubliner is driven to the ends of this earth by the firm belief he has further Major titles to win.

This relentless quest brings him this week to Thana City Golf Club, not far from Bangkok, where Harrington teed it up in the first round of the Thailand Open earlier this morning.

Like Ireland's newly-appointed Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, the presence of three-time Major champion Harrington on their timesheet lends gravitas to an event being co-sanctioned for the first time by the One Asia and Japan Tours.

Harrington is unlikely to be out of pocket when he plays next week's Maybank Malaysian Open at Kuala Lumpur Country Club. That's the way of the professional golfing world.

Yet money didn't make the 41-year-old Irishman travel for a solid 24 hours around the world from Miami, scene of last weekend's Cadillac World Championship of Golf, to Thailand.

"The whole idea about going to Asia is getting myself into contention," Harrington says.

COMPETITIVE

Having won only once, the 2010 Iskandar Johor Open, in 54 months since spectacularly lifting his third Major, the 2008 US PGA, at Oakland Hills, he craves that competitive edge which only victory can bring.

This also helps explain why Harrington will play a career-high 10 events in the run-up to next month's US Masters – after Malaysia, he takes a week off, then plays the Valero Texas Open, followed immediately by the year's first Major.

Take a look at all the significant steps Harrington has taken in recent years to improve his golf swing, his physique and even his eyesight and a Major strategy seems to be at play.

For example, he jokes about the 'Eat for Yards Diet' which has boosted his weight this season to a muscular 14st 2lb, but Harrington's more powerful and stable than ever in his swing.

The most painful choice was breaking up with his inspired, long-standing coach Bob Torrance a couple of years back.

Though the work he's done with Pete Cowen shows great potential, Harrington's results were hampered by inconsistent wedge play (not helped by the banning of box grooves) and, most damning of all, a crisis of confidence when reading putts. The glasses he wore for the first time in tournament play last week in Doral "are here to stay," said Harrington, enthused that he at last has found a way to compensate for astigmatism in his eye and can believe what he sees on the putting green.

"I still need to trust my reading a bit more, but as the weeks go on, I think I will," he explained at Doral on Sunday evening, revealing the profound extent of the problem when he added: "There was no read on the wrong side of the hole this week (at the Cadillac), which is the first time in five years."

Harrington also expected to draw rich dividends from extensive work with Dave Alred at Doral.

"I hit 350 wedge shots in practice last week," he outlined, every one of them catalogued by the noted English rugby kicking coach, who specialises in building effective practice and pre-shot routines.

Far from satisfied with three Major titles, Harrington's laying firm foundations for more.

"Outside of my family, those three Majors mean the world to me," he said. "They're what I'm going to be remembered for ... but I don't feel I'll stop now."

Every step he takes, every shot he makes in Thailand this week and next is aimed at Augusta.

Avantha Masters, Day 1

Live, Sky Sports 3, 2.0

Tampa Bay Championship, Day 1

Live, Sky Sports 3, 7.0

Irish Independent

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