Harrington lines up date with Obama
YOU know you've arrived in golf when you're invited to party with the US President at the White House -- or to lunch with Jack Nicklaus at his golf club.
Padraig Harrington is relishing his opportunity to meet Barack Obama on St Patrick's Day, while Rory McIlroy described sitting down for a private tete-a-tete with Nicklaus last week as "an unbelievable experience".
That McIlroy has been given equal billing with Tiger Woods on the cover of the latest edition of Tiger's own computer game offers further evidence of the remarkable impact the Irish 20-year-old has made on world golf.
With three Majors to his name, Harrington's bona fides are well-established but no matter how far he's travelled in golf, the 38-year-old admitted he was excited by the prospect of meeting Obama.
"It really is something different," he said. "President Obama is one of the most charismatic people of the world; also one of the most powerful. It's always fascinating to meet these people and see what they're like -- to get the chance to make your own judgement.
"You can tell a lot when you meet somebody. Plus, I've never been to the White House before," added Harrington, invited along with Bray's world champion boxer Katie Taylor to next Wednesday's party, which will be attended by Taoiseach Brian Cowen.
Doubtless, his friend Retief Goosen will offer Harrington one valuable piece of advice at this weekend's CA World Championship in Doral -- make sure you get clearance from the Tour to miss Wednesday's pre-tournament pro-am at The Transitions in Fort Lauderdale.
Goosen was disqualified from The Nissan five years ago when he slept it out and missed his Wednesday tee time at Riviera, though Phil Mickelson was allowed play the 2007 Byron Nelson after thunderstorms closed the local airport and prevented him from arriving in time for the pro-am.
"Extenuating circumstances" were cited by the Tour for Mickelson's reprieve and one fully expects the pro-am rule to be waived once again so Harrington can keep this date with the most influential left-handed golfer in the world.
McIlroy looks forward to renewing his acquaintanceship with professional golf's most famous 'lefty' when he tees it up with reigning champion Phil Mickelson (and Goosen) in today's first round at Doral.
They last played together at November's HSBC Champions, where McIlroy was delighted to discover an adventurous kindred spirit in Mickelson. The World No 2 eclipsed his young rival in a compelling duel before claiming first place in Shanghai but should ready himself for another thrilling 36-hole encounter this week.
A regular visitor to Doral since age nine, McIlroy tied 20th with Harrington in last year's CA Championship. Like the Dubliner, he has not fired on all cylinders in 2010 but played with enough flair and freedom at The Honda Classic last Sunday to suggest he's fully recovered from recent back problems and really can take on The Blue Monster.
Yet patience was the keynote of his 'summit' with Nicklaus, which McIlroy described as "the best 90 minutes I've spent in a long time".
"One of the reasons I'm working with Dr Bob Rotella is to try and be a bit more clinical in finishing off at tournaments," he added. "And Jack was probably the most clinical of them all. It was great to sit down and talk to him, to see his approach to winning; what went through his head whenever he was in contention and things he might have done differently to others.
"One of the biggest things I took from it was to be patient, to learn to wait, bide my time and have enough belief in myself to know it'll come."
One guy who must turn good form into a big performance at Doral is Graeme McDowell, after his chance of a big cheque and a fistful of ranking points were chewed up in The Bear Trap at Palm Beach Gardens last weekend.
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