Wednesday 21 February 2018

Harrington can draw on past glories with Daly and Singh for company

Padraig Harrington practising on Monday. Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Padraig Harrington practising on Monday. Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Pádraig Harrington tees off in a three-ball of former US PGA champions alongside Vijay Singh and John Daly at Baltusrol today.

They are not quite 'golden oldies' but Harrington, 44, is by far the youngest of the trio, as Singh is 53 and Daly hit the 50 mark last April.

Daly now plies his trade on the Champions Tour, but Singh continues to devote most of his time to the PGA Tour instead of settling for the lucrative over-50s circuit.

The Fijian has won the PGA Championship twice - 1998 and 2004 - while Daly famously triumphed in 1991 after driving through the night to make his Major debut at Crooked Stick.

This is interesting company for Harrington, but he looks to the future, and not the past. That's just as well, because the last time he played the PGA at Baltusrol, he missed the cut, shooting 13-over par.

"You know, testament to how strong my mind is, I don't remember a single hole or a single shot I hit in 2005, so I don't remember, thankfully. Thirteen-over par, I had to look it up," he said.

Perhaps it was not surprising that Harrington should have struggled at Baltusrol 11 years ago, as the US PGA was his first Major after his father, Paddy, had died a couple of weeks earlier in July of '05.

He was to win the Wanamaker Trophy three years later, his third Major title.

This, however, is the only one that counts for the Dubliner.

As he prepared for his 18th PGA in the sweltering heat, Harrington assessed the challenge facing the field over the next four days.

This course is a par-70 layout, measuring 7,642 yards, with water in play on seven holes.

It features a number of long par-fours - the third measures 503 yards, and the seventh 501 - and the round comes to a quirky finish with a 649-yard par-five 17th, followed by the 554-yard par-five 18th.

The climax over those holes leaves plenty of scope for drama on the only two par-fives on the scorecard.

Bunkering is reasonable in terms of numbers with 138 sand traps. The rough looks difficult without being penal, and Harrington looks forward to the competition.

"If you went through the players this week, I'd say this would be the least amount of practice holes played by a field.

"It's hot, and you can play it with your yardage book, this course.

"The greens have big slopes, but it's not like you can't see the slopes. It's all there in front of you," he said.

Phil Mickelson showed in the Open that the mid-40s players can still contend on the big stage, and if desire and optimism were the only criteria for success in Majors, Harrington would be out the door with trophies.

Golf does not work that way, so he adheres to his mantra of looking ahead, but can draw on aspects of former glories when required.

"I think those sort of things have more to do with handling the pressure and how you feel about things all the way through the week, in your preparation, and especially on Sunday if you are in contention. I think that's when having won these tournaments makes a big deal.

"Up to that, yeah, it's important to know that I have the winning formula, that I don't need to do anything different to what I did in 2008, or '07, in that sense, so that's a big plus.

"And then it's a big plus if you're coming down the stretch having won one. You know how the feelings are," said Harrington.

How much of an advantage could that be in the pressurised situation of the back nine on a Sunday?

"I don't necessarily know if I've got a chance of winning on Sunday that I'll be more relaxed than the next guy, but I've won one of these, I know what I should be feeling like coming down the stretch, and I'll be able to respond to that.

"I certainly can read the situations well now.

"It doesn't mean I get it right, but I can read it well, and, yeah, I'd like to be in contention with nine holes to play," he said.

Harrington is happy overall with his game, and the only drawback from his point of view is the lack of facilities for pitching and chipping.

Irish Independent

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