Sport Golf

Saturday 24 February 2018

Padraig Harrington one of the most dedicated golfers I’ve ever known, says ex-coach

Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington

Mark Garrod

AFTER finishing eighth in the Masters and fourth in the US Open, the odds on Padraig Harrington winning a third Open title in six years have come tumbling down.

In most of the betting markets he is rated fifth favourite behind Tiger Woods, Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood.

It would be the Dubliner's fourth major in all if he does it at Royal Lytham on Sunday - but the first since he decided last summer to end his long relationship with coach Bob Torrance.

Both talked during their 15 years together of being like father and son and the Scot - the actual father of former Ryder Cup captain Sam - admitted to disappointment, even some hurt.

Harrington, after all, had once told Torrance that he would still want him there in a wheelchair if it ever came to that and described him as a genius.

But, despite wishing the split had not come like it did, you will not find the 80-year-old hoping his ex-pupil, now coached by Pete Cowen, comes a cropper.

"I know everybody told Padraig he was off his head to split up with me," Torrance said.

"But he's just determined to prove everybody else wrong. That's all he wants to do and I'll be delighted if he gets back to where he was.

"I always still look for his name and his score. Not before my own players, but I always look.

"Padraig's a very nice chap. He's very determined, very dedicated - more than anybody I've known in the game with the exception of (Ben) Hogan.

"He wanted to shorten his swing and was convinced it would be easier to maintain. He's playing well right now - whether it'll last I don't know."

Harrington originally went to Torrance because he had seen and admired the work he had done with Paul McGinley's swing.

There was much to be done, Torrance decided, but the Dubliner’s willingness to put in the hours speeded up the process.

"We used to put him up in our house - it became known as 'Padraig's Room' - and I remember one time during the winter we were out in snow and sleet.

"He'd say 'I'll just do another 10 balls, Bob, and that will do'. Well, I stopped counting because he kept going and going.

"He eventually said 'you'll not see many guys practising in this' and I said 'Aye - and you'll not see many coaches either!"

The major breakthrough came, of course, at Carnoustie in 2007 when he beat Sergio Garcia in a play-off.

"He said that he wanted to win for me there because he knew Hogan was my hero."

It was on the Scottish links that the American won the Claret Jug in 1953.

The following July at Birkdale Harrington became the first European to make a successful defence since James Braid in 1906 and a month after that he pushed Garcia into second place again to become Europe's first USPGA champion since 1930.

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