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Harrington happy with 'mistress' role

Padraig Harrington was so determined to add world-famous rugby kicking coach Dave Alred to his backroom team, the Dubliner made a 384-mile dash by road from Killarney to Dublin and back to see him during last summer's Irish Open.

Learning that Alred was due to have a session with Irish and Leinster out-half Johnny Sexton in the capital the following day, Harrington hit the road from Killarney on Saturday evening -- he'd missed Friday's cut.

Alred's spectacular success in transforming Luke Donald into golf's World No 1 had placed him on top of Harrington's most-wanted list and he caught up with his man the following morning.

After they met, Harrington then headed straight back to Co Kerry, where his private jet waited to ferry the three-times Major-winner and his family to America for the Bridgestone and PGA Championships.

"Dave's obviously in big demand, I had to wait six months for an appointment," joked the Dubliner, whose first opportunity to work with Alred came at this week's Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

A series of intensive sessions are already yielding results. Unfazed by three three-putts, Harrington yesterday swept to within three shots of the tournament lead with a second round 69 on a course playing considerably harder than in previous years.

He's been so encouraged by Alred's efforts during this week's 'trial', Harrington wants to make it permanent. "Luke's always going to be Dave's first choice in golf," he conceded. "But I'm happy to play the mistress in this situation."

Alred has worked in a wide variety of sports, from golf's Paul McGinley to the Gaelic footballers of Dublin and Armagh; from an array of Premier League soccer clubs to the English rugby team and the Wallabies in Australia.

He's already brought order and discipline to Harrington's practice this week, insisting, for example, the Irishman plays exactly the agreed number of balls in a precisely pre-defined time.

Meanwhile, they sat down after each of the first two rounds and analysed every single shot he played.

"I was screaming all last year that I played well in practice, but didn't bring it into tournaments," said the golfer.

"After winning those Majors, I knew I had the answers: how to prepare, taper and compete to deliver results.

"I thought to do it again, I'd just have to do the same things, but it didn't work and I got really uptight and stressed," added Harrington, who expects that the structure and focus Alred has brought to his practice will transfer into his tournament play.

"We're not trying to invent the wheel," he explained. "Just re-invent it."

Sadly, Darren Clarke's still struggling to adjust to life as Open champion, missing the cut in Abu Dhabi after yesterday's calamitous 81, his worst round in five years on tour.

• Kyle Stanley and Spencer Levin shared the lead after the opening day of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in California.

Stanley made eagle on his final hole for a 10-under-par 62, his best score in two years on the PGA Tour.

Levin shot 29 on the back nine and also posted a 62, matching his best on tour. The top 12 on the leaderboard were playing the North course, which was slightly easier than the South Course, the US Open venue in 2008.

Irish Independent