Tuesday 20 February 2018

Cowen urges Harrington to work on 'iffy' wedge play

Tiger Woods stands with his new caddie Joe LaCava during the Pro Am of the
Frys.com Open which starts today
Tiger Woods stands with his new caddie Joe LaCava during the Pro Am of the Frys.com Open which starts today

Karl MacGinty

PETE COWEN set his newest 'star pupil' Padraig Harrington plenty of homework on his week off.

After their first 10 weeks working together, Cowen gives Harrington top marks for his driving, but now has advised the Dubliner to bone up on his wedge play.

Harrington is just one of 14 players Cowen instructs, but he doesn't demand much of the veteran teacher's time.

"The good aspect about working with Padraig is you don't have to stand over him with a bull whip," quipped the Yorkshireman, busy this week working with Sweden's Henrik Stenson, Scot Marc Warren and England's Seve Benson ahead of the Madrid Masters.

Last Sunday Harrington sent his new coach a text, expressing excitement after securing his equal-best result of the season, a share of eighth, in the Dunhill Links at St Andrews.

"Padraig said he hadn't driven the ball so well for a long time. The only aspect of his game he felt was a bit iffy was his wedge play," Cowen revealed.

The coach has long admired Harrington's swing but since he's started working with him in August, he's been poring over the Dubliner's statistics.

"I was keen to study Padraig's stats from 50 to 70 yards out," he said. "In 2008, when he won two Majors, he was ranked No 1 by a mile from that range that year, averaging seven feet two inches from the flag.

"But when you look at the same stats from last year, Padraig averaged 14 feet and that's ridiculous and that's one of the tasks I've set him to work on this week. There's no real concern with his driving as he drove it very well in Scotland last week and to have only two bogeys after 72 holes was pretty good."

With Harrington sitting out this week's Madrid Masters, it's left to Paul McGinley, Damien McGrane and Gareth Maybin to carry the Irish colours in a tournament graced by a world No 1 -- Luke Donald -- for the first time since 1993 when Nick Faldo played.

The $900,000 question at the Frys.com Open is whether Tiger Woods can ever again be what he once was.

Without a win anywhere since the JBWere Masters in Australia in November 2009, Tiger this week dropped out of the world's top 50 for the first time since 1996.

Though rated a 7/1 bookies favourite at CordeValle (money poured in from the moment Woods declared his intention to play this week's Fall Series event), Tiger has shown no form in the paltry six rounds he managed to play since April's Masters.

Woods has recovered from the Achilles tendon and left knee injuries which sidelined him for much of the summer, but his golf game is likely to require more remedial work.

Some have been encouraged by the course record 62Tiger shot last Friday at The Medalist, his new golf club in Florida and supposedly an exacting test. Yet Jesper Parnevik and Greg Norman both went round the same track in 64 that day.

Instead, watch out for another man on a comeback mission this weekend after an injury-wracked year. Last week in Korea, England's Paul Casey underwent herbal acupuncture on the foot injury which "wrecked my game", then promptly went out and won the Shinhan Donghae Open.

Madrid Masters,

Live, Sky Sports 1, 11.0/3.30

Frys.com Open,

Live, Sky Sports 3, 10.0pm

Irish Independent

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