Sport Golf

Sunday 25 February 2018

Harrington ready to rock 'n' roll at 16th in Phoenix

Padraig Harrington (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Padraig Harrington (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Pádraig Harrington is a man for all seasons - 21 of them completed to date as a Tour professional.

And though he's 45 and has pretty much seen it all and done it all around the global golf circuits, Harrington is a thoroughly modern chap when it comes to juicing up the golfing experience for players and fans.

Not for him the stuffy, stilted approach of rigid conformity to 'the way it always has been.'

A new energy is being generated under the leadership of European Tour CEO Keith Pelley.

Spectator engagement is paramount in addition to extending the reach of tournament golf via every possible aspect of social media.

Harrington grew up in Stackstown Golf Club on the hills overlooking South County Dublin. He was properly schooled in the etiquette of the game by his elders and betters, notably his late father, Paddy, one of the founding members of the club.

As a GUI amateur international and Walker Cup player, Harrington behaved properly, as he still does, but he is happy to move with the times.

If that means loud throbbing music blaring across the fairways as players approach the first tee and other elements of razzmatazz, he's up for it.

The Dubliner enjoyed the fervent atmosphere whipped up by the USGA at the Ryder Cup in Hazeltine, and he looks forward to the raucous crowd response to the golfers on the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale, venue for this week's Waste Management Phoenix Open.

This is not a hole for faint hearts.

The fans in the stands adjoining the green at the 163-yard par-three hole do their best to evoke a sense of the Roman Coliseum.

Hit a good shot off the tee and it's thumbs up, and welcoming cheers as the player walks to the putting surface.

A bad shot? Well, the player will be left in no doubt about the crowd's opinion of his performance.

Challenge

Harrington embraces the challenge.

"Maybe when I was 24 years of age, I would have gone there and gone, 'This isn't real golf', with the etiquette of it, all that sort of stuff.

"Now I realise, it ain't disturbing anything. It's not affecting anything.

"I said it about this Waste Management, obviously the world is trying to copy the 16th hole.

"The guy who is up first on the 16th, he should get to choose the music he comes into on the tee. He should press the music to bring it on," said Harrington.

The three-time Major champion was disappointed to miss the cut in his opening 2017 event at Torrey Pines and hopes for better this week.

Shane Lowry was the only Irish player to make the cut and is eagerly awaiting this tee-off tomorrow in Scottsdale.

Lowry dropped out of the world top-50 to 53rd this week and will want to get back inside that elite comfort zone as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, it's 'Tiger Comeback - Chapter 2' in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates GC.

Woods, twice a winner of the tournament, tees it up in the early hours of tomorrow morning (Irish time) in a marquee group alongside current holder and Masters champion Danny Willett, and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick will take good memories from his most recent outing in Dubai when he won the DP World Tour championship last November

Graeme McDowell, Paul Dunne and Darren Clarke also play in Dubai.

McDowell is a Tiger fan.

"He is one of the most mentally tough athletes I've ever seen playing any sport and I fully expect him of being capable at competing at the high level again. It is always fun when Tiger is in the field," he said.

Irish Independent

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