Nothing left to chance in Harrington's major quest
Published 01/06/2010 | 05:00
GOLF SHOES? Check! Range finder? Check! Sun block? Check! Refractometer? What in the blessed name of Ben Hogan is a refractometer?
And why does Padraig Harrington never travel to a tournament these days without one?
The answer to those two questions helps illustrate how Ireland's three-time Major champion and his backroom team of doctors, scientists and technical experts leave absolutely nothing to chance in his preparation for events.
Every day, Harrington will use a hand-held refractometer to determine if he is properly hydrated. He simply places a drop of urine on the prism and forwards the results to his health and fitness specialist Dr Liam Hennessy for analysis.
On the 15 to 20 weeks per year that Dr Hennessy travels with the Irishman to tournaments, the medic himself will conduct daily blood, urine and stress testing on Harrington to ensure he is in peak physical condition, especially going into that crunch time at tournaments -- Sunday afternoon.
Until recently, the fitness director at the IRFU, Dr Hennessy, played a key role in the success of Irish rugby entering the professional era, helping to develop the speed and mobility of our players at a time when others opted for brute strength.
Yet his work on Harrington's physiology is just one facet of the Dubliner's 24/7 devotion to the pursuit of further success at the Majors. If it is within reason (and, of course, the rules) he is willing to give anything a try.
World-famous mind guru Dr Bob Rotella; biomechanics expert and putting specialist Dr Paul Hurrion; leading golf chiropractor Dr Dale Richardson; a team of boffins and research specialists at the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) in San Diego and, probably most important of all in golfing terms, renowned Scottish swing coach Bob Torrance, all support Harrington's cause with a wealth of knowledge.
Prominent among the members of Team Harrington is the player's elder brother Tadhg, his caddie as an amateur and a former Garda who, after five years' association with Dr Hennessy and working his way up the ladder at the TPI, is now studying for a masters degree in the Psychology of Coaching.
Tadhg offered an interesting insight into his brother's insatiable appetite for knowledge when he revealed that Harrington brought two books with him on holiday this week as he recovers from keyhole surgery on his right knee, which he underwent last Tuesday.
No thrillers, chillers or sci-fi for Harrington. Instead, he has been reading 'The Talent Code' by Daniel Coyle and 'Talent is Overrated' by Geoff Colvin, two fascinating tomes that strongly espouse that exceptional ability, sporting or otherwise, is not born but is grown through practice and perseverance.
Though an avid reader of newspapers, Harrington studiously avoids articles about himself ... he's done so since age 18, according to Tadhg, who adds that friends and relatives are warned not to discuss such items in his presence.
So Harrington is blissfully unaware of recent suppositions (in this column) that his failure to win on Tour in 20 months since the 2008 US PGA at Oakland Hills has incrementally increased the pressure on him to deliver.
Tadhg laughed out loud at any suggestion of his brother being weighed down by expectation.
"I actually laugh at some of the things written about him," said Tadhg. "Padraig doesn't tinker too much with his swing. He doesn't put himself under undue pressure or think too much or any of that other rubbish. In fact, he's happier and more confident (with his game) now than ever before."
He insisted his brother's desire to explore every potential avenue for improvement, "is the poison that has made Padraig great. It's just the way he is.
"Nobody complained when he won three Majors in 13 months yet everyone is sounding off because he hasn't won in more than a year," he continued. "But I'm telling you now, Padraig is the most confident person in the world that he's doing the all the correct things to put himself in a position to win the next Major.
"Even if he never wins another tournament, he's so confident in what he's doing it's almost frightening to see it at first hand."
Few are better equipped with the temperament to accept Dr Rotella's proposition that golf itself "is not a game of perfect", but if that refractometer helps Harrington stay fit and fresh to face the ravages of the back nine on Sunday at the Majors, then it's every bit as important as his wedge or putter.
Inevitably, Harrington's focus these days is on winning Majors and, having completed his recovery from surgery, the Dubliner will begin his countdown to the US Open at next week's St Jude Classic in Memphis.
In the meantime, his interest in supporting junior golf initiatives will be cemented further on June 26 when Harrington sponsors the inaugural Munster Junior Scotch Foursomes tournament at Dungarvan Golf Club. Every golf club in Ireland will be invited to send at least two representatives to this U-18 event.
Tadhg Harrington, Dr Hennessy and PGA professional John Kelly will also stage a TPI-style mini seminar for provincial coaches in Munster at Thurles Golf club today.
It is a measure of Team Harrington's flourishing influence at TPI, and in the coaching arena in general, that the San Diego Institute recommended Dr Hennessy and Tadhg Harrington to develop a junior schools coaching system for the Spanish Golf Federation, starting with the region around Navarro in September. Padraig Harrington's involvement in golf clearly won't end when he is finished winning Majors.
tiger's tumbling stock
a liability for memorial
DEFENDING champion Tiger Woods bids for a fifth career victory at the Memorial in Muirfield Village this week.
Yet as Tiger tries to shrug off his recent neck disc injury and poor recent form, one can't help wondering if a win for the beleaguered world No 1 this Sunday would be good for the tournament promoted annually by Jack Nicklaus.
The sponsorship contract, under which bankers Morgan Stanley poured $5m into the Memorial each year, expires this weekend and one wonders if any company chairman or chief executive would relish a photo opportunity with Woods right now?
Tiger has tumbled from prize asset to corporate liability in the blink of an eye. Perhaps it would be better if Phil Mickelson, our own Rory McIlroy or some other squeaky-clean performer, like Sunday's Crowne Plaza Colonial champion Zach Johnson, took the honours next Sunday.
McGinley's new club-hire business just the ticket
PAUL McGINLEY'S patience is being sorely tested on the comeback trail, but the Dubliner is ready to ease the frustration many fellow golfers feel at being charged up to €40 per flight to bring their clubs on holiday.
The ingenious club-hire business set up by Ryder Cup hero McGinley and pal Tony Judge swings into operation from June 19 at Faro on The Algarve, with Malaga scheduled to come on line by the end of July.
Their website, www.clubstohire.com, is up and running, offering sets of the latest equipment for pick-up in the arrivals hall at the destination airport.