Wednesday 20 November 2019

Harrington goes against grain with 'less is more' policy

Famously hard-working Dubliner puts faith in relaxed approach to Augusta practice in bid to 'stay fresh for Sunday afternoon'

Padraig Harrington with his sons Patrick and Ciaran
Padraig Harrington with his sons Patrick and Ciaran

Karl MacGinty

Whisper it - Padraig Harrington, the man who sparked Irish fireworks in golf's Grand Slam arena, is perfectly prepared for his 15th assault on the Masters.

Harrington, who forced his way back to Augusta National with last month's stunning victory at the Honda Classic, is brimming with energy and optimism after applying a 'less is more' approach to practice this week.

One of a record five Irish golfers who have made it into this week's field, the Dubliner is famed for his punishing dawn-till-dusk work ethic

Yet Harrington has played just 18 practice holes at Augusta since flying in from Houston last Sunday night.

"All I've done this week is prepare as well as I can so I'm fresh Thursday morning and still fresh on Sunday afternoon," said Harrington.

His career-long programme with Irish sports specialist Dr Liam Hennessy has established him as one of the fittest 43-year-olds on the PGA Tour.

Yet the three-times Major champion has long battled a tendency to overdo the practice in the run-up to Majors.

His vast experience at the Masters helps make an exception of Augusta. It's easier to cut his cloth here "because, obviously, I know the golf course. I've played just 18 holes in total, the back nine on Monday and the front nine today.

"But bear in mind, I won at Royal Birkdale with no practice rounds," added the Irishman, whose preparations for the 2008 British Open were severely curtailed by a wrist injury.

Harrington missed last year's Masters for the first time since making his Augusta debut in 2000. He has twice finished fifth, banking $1.293m here over his career.

After breaking his exasperating 80-month win drought on the US and European Tour at PGA National last month, he appears calm, confident and assured heading into this week's tournament.

Harrington is joined in the Irish line-up at Augusta National by experienced Ulster trio Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell, while Shane Lowry makes his Masters debut.

In an effort to unravel the mysteries of Augusta, the Clara man has played 45 holes since his arrival on Sunday evening from his Florida practice base at Lake Nona, where McDowell and Ian Poulter are among the neighbours.

"It has been great," he enthused. "I played nine on Sunday, 18 on Monday, nine on Tuesday and nine today, so I've got a feel for the place now and I'm enjoying every minute."

It looked like hard work on Monday as he grappled in cloying heat to get to grips with the pace and perplexing nuances of Augusta National's greens, but the electric atmosphere here energised the 28-year-old.

"I've just been trying to treat it as another week and trying to figure it out for myself. I played a good few holes on my own and took my time around the greens and stuff, just trying to work out what's there," he said.

"I'm sure there'll be times where I short-side myself - if I knew the course better I wouldn't be hitting it in those places but that's just the way it is.

"Hopefully I can play okay and see what happens come the weekend.

"It's one of the most amazing places I've ever been," Lowry enthused. "I've got a few friends and family over here.

"I played the par-three this afternoon with my dad, Brendan, as caddie. It's one of those weeks where it's hard to explain in words how good it actually is."

"I just played nine holes with Jimmy Walker this morning and it's only his second time here. We were saying you feel like you know the golf course because you've watching it a hundred times on TV. In fact, it feels a bit surreal being out there playing.

"I feel like I'm playing okay. I just want to get myself into a mindset where I'm enjoying the occasion but I'm trying to play well as well."

Ryder Cup captain Clarke came up with the quote of the week so far when asked what would be a good result for him at Augusta: "A Rory McIlroy win!"

Irish Independent

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