Harrington: Basket case?
Harrington is in great shape physically but the flaws and inconsistencies in his game are pushing him to breaking point
THE omens are not good! Halfway through his build-up for April's US Masters, Padraig Harrington is still wrestling with his golf game and plainly struggling to bed in the dizzying series of changes he embarked on over the winter.
So is 2011 going to be yet another year Harrington must put down to experience?
The changes the Dubliner is making are scientifically sound. They will ultimately result in a smoother swing with fewer moving parts, requiring less maintenance.
The boffins have also suggested a couple of biomechanical tweaks to ease the strain on Harrington's muscles and joints and boost his prospects of remaining at the top of the world game well into his 40s.
Of course, with more efficiency, Harrington will hope to find that holy grail for all professionals -- added distance.
For example, even as Tiger Woods struggles manfully to implement the new technique suggested by his coach Sean Foley, he is said to be delighted at how incredibly far the good shots are flying.
Yet virtually everything the boffins on Harrington's back-room team suggest these days is aimed at stretching his longevity as a force in golf.
Vijay Singh's sudden re-emergence last weekend at Riviera Country Club, where he finished second only to Australia's impressive Northern Trust Open winner Aaron Baddeley (29), clearly shows it's possible even for one of the sport's most notorious workaholics to remain competitive on tour as he approaches 50.
Singh celebrates not only his 48th birthday today, but also his return to the world's elite top 50 (at No 49) after two injury-ravaged years which sent him plummeting down the global rankings.
Though he led the putting stats at Riviera, one wonders about the long-term effectiveness of the Fijian's wacky new 'beer tankard' grip, in which he clasps his right fist around the top of his new 'conventional' putter, placing his left hand on the club just below.
Singh was delighted to contend once again in Los Angeles, saying: "It feels good. I think I've still got it."
Before reaching his mid-30s and graduating into a Major champion, Harrington reckoned he'd be finished on tour by his early 40s, physically burnt out by an excessive practice regime.
These days his attitude is different. As his 40th birthday looms next August, the Dubliner has high hopes of emulating the feats of Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, who have both enjoyed spectacular success well into their fifth decade.
Though in great shape physically to meet this challenge, Harrington is driving himself and his many admirers to distraction.
The flaws and inconsistencies in his game are pushing him to breaking point mentally.
For nearly 14 years, Harrington has lived by Dr Bob Rotella's gospel of acceptance. The good doctor's book 'Golf is Not a Game of Perfect' is the Irishman's bible.
Yet Harrington admitted in Los Angeles that he'd sorely needed a couple of sessions on the doctor's couch last week after he'd become "too hard on myself" (on the golf course) and found himself "trying too hard to hit the perfect shot".
He'd been dismayed with his efforts at Pebble Beach the previous week, which followed a disturbing recent pattern in which Harrington performs brightly on the first two days at tournaments, but hits a brick wall at the weekend.
Well, exactly the same fate befell him in LA as Harrington went from 14th place and well in touch with the leaders on Friday to a lowly tie for 55th on Sunday.
For sure, grappling with an unreliable golf game on such a strategically challenging course as Riviera Country Club is wearying.
Yet it's ironic that changes aimed at prolonging Harrington's career physically, should push him so close to being a basket case mentally.