Harrington lifts lid on Torrance split
BARELY an eyebrow was raised yesterday when Padraig Harrington passionately expressed his determination to play golf at the Olympics.
Harrington will be closing in on his 45th birthday when golf makes its return to the Games at Rio de Janeiro in August 2016.
Yet the Dubliner (40) rarely has been in better condition than now, due to his strict adherence to the physical fitness programme devised for him by Dr Liam Hennessy.
Of major significance over the past 12 months have been changes Harrington has made to his swing under coach Pete Cowen and the streamlining effect David Alred has had on his practice routines.
In his early 30s, Harrington used to say he could not envisage himself playing professional golf beyond 40, given the intensity of this self-confessed workaholic's commitment to practice and play.
So great are the strides he has made in recent times, even shaking off persistent and debilitating shoulder and neck problems, that Harrington was able to fight his way into contention at the Irish Open in Royal Portrush last weekend, despite it being his seventh tournament in eight weeks.
Inevitably, mental fatigue would impede his pursuit of winner Jamie Donaldson last Sunday, Harrington admitting that the difficulty he had in reading putts in the final round probably could be attributed to "tiredness".
Yet he would have been worn to a veritable frazzle if he had attempted to play so many tournament in quick succession a few years back.
Of course, one of the downsides was the pain their parting 12 months ago inevitably caused to Harrington's venerable Scottish coach Bob Torrance ... the breach came at the Irish Open in Killarney and their paths have crossed few times, if at all, since.
Yet the Irishman seems almost certain to bump into Torrance on the practice range at next week's Aberdeen Assets Management Scottish Open on the Castle Stuart links just outside Nairn, Harrington's final tournament before the British Open at Lytham.
"Oh, absolutely, I have been in touch with Bob," said Harrington yesterday. "Not massive amounts, that's for sure, because it's a difficult situation, there's no doubt about that. It's awkward.
"I'll look forward to seeing him, hopefully at the Scottish Open," continued the three-times Major champion. He may not have won since he and Torrance parted, but Harrington has hit a rich vein of form in recent months.
"It's a difficult one. I suspect and I hope that Bob is happy to see me playing well. But, obviously, how does that reflect on him and how does it reflect on me, the changes?"
Harrington explained that Cowen has encouraged him to shorten his swing and accommodate some of the stuff he does in the gym and with the physio to ease pressure on his ailing joints.
"It's a different perspective on things, and certainly has soothed me in terms of my neck and shoulder injuries over the last couple of years," he said. "They seem to have greatly, greatly reduced.
"You know, it's not that one man is right and one man is wrong. You need a different view on things. Bob would be a great believer that (only) Mother Nature shortens your golf swing -- that you shouldn't go down that road. Pete was quite happy to tighten up my golf swing in that sense.
"It's somewhere ultimately where I'd wanted to go," added Harrington, who, one suspects, had been determined to make changes to his swing for some time before the split. As early as spring 2009, he was visibly shortening his swing, with damaging effects on the course.
It took a six-hour remedial session with Torrance on Monday at that year's British Open to get him back in the groove ... yet since taking up with Cowen last summer, Harrington has found a new lease of life.
"I needed to step away, because I'm not somebody who does anything behind somebody's back," he said. "You can't be committed to something unless everybody's committed. It's been difficult.
"Definitely, Bob is like a father figure to me. I love his company. It's awkward and I miss his company."