HARRY POTTER fans should have some inkling of what cinema buff Padraig Harrington meant when he revealed he was "ironing my hands" at Pebble Beach last weekend.
It refers to Dobby, one of the house elves in the kitchens at Hogwarts who ironed his own hands if he felt he did anything wrong.
"Maybe we should get the iron out," is a code sometimes used by Harrington's long-serving caddie Ronan Flood during play to let the Dubliner know he's beating himself up unnecessarily.
Harrington needed bucking up on Sunday as he slumped to 63rd in the AT&T National with a 78, his worst round score in 18 months.
Beginning with today's first round of the National Trust Open in Los Angeles, Harrington needs to start getting his act together if his game's to be in peak condition for April's US Masters.
A lowly 35th in the world, Harrington described last weekend's 74 and 78 at Pebble as "terrible, made only worse by the fact that the weather was absolutely perfect."
Though "happy" with his game "in general," Harrington conceded he was letting himself "get distracted ... There's no doubt I'm being too hard on myself and trying too hard on the course.
"So much so, when I don't hit the shot I want to hit, I'm getting down on myself.
"It is like the old saying of ironing my hands; it's something I have to get out of straight away."
Harrington has missed the cut on his last two appearances at Hogan's Alley, as Riviera Country Club is known, but can draw inspiration from his third place finish there in 2008.
Mickelson on cusp of something great
The PGA Tour returns to the centre of the golfing universe this week following its annual eclipse by Europe's 'Desert Swing' ... and US megastar Phil Mickelson can mark the occasion with another stellar performance in the Northern Trust Open.
Mickelson, winner at Riviera Country Club in 2008 and 2009, literally is full of the joys of spring.
His wife Amy and mother Mary are "in a much better place" after their respective battles with breast cancer, while the US Masters Champion has broken free of the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis which dragged him down for much of last year.
"I feel like I'm right on the cusp of playing some great golf," said Mickelson, whose top-10 finish at Pebble Beach last Sunday followed an impressive second place behind Bubba Watson at Torrey Pines a fortnight earlier.
"I feel like I'm driving the ball very, very well, better than I probably ever have.
"I feel like my iron play is back; my distance control has been sharp and I'm rolling the ball very well on the green."
In short, the perfect recipe for success, even in a field as classy as this week's in LA.
Old-style layout will suit McGinley
The long climb back up the world ladder can begin in earnest for Paul McGinley at today's first round of The Avantha Masters in New Delhi.
The Dubliner's game should be suited by the 7156-yard Arnold Palmer creation at DLF Golf and Country Club, where the emphasis will be on strategy -- unlike the lush, long-playing courses with US Open-style rough he recently encountered in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai.
"It's a good, old-fashioned golf course," enthused McGinley (44) who has slipped to 458th in the world and, after finishing outside the Tour's top 115 in 2010 is playing on a once-off career prizemoney exemption this season.
Clear of the knee problems which hampered him so badly last year and relatively happy with his game, despite sandwiching a decent showing in Qatar with missed cuts in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, McGinley has an opportunity to make his class and experience count this weekend.
Ireland will also be represented by Gareth Maybin in New Delhi, where Jeev Milkha Singh hopes for his first win on home soil.
Molinari ashamed of Milan's Gattuso
Francesco Molinari yesterday stuck the boot into Gennaro Gattuso following the Milan star's crazy antics at the San Siro.
"Gattuso should be ashamed and AC Milan should fine him for what he did," Molinari tweeted. "Sorry, I really can't stand that image of Italian football."
As a lifelong supporter of Inter and a passionate West Ham fan, Italy's Ryder Cup star was torn by Tuesday's Champions League battle ... but ended up rooting for Spurs. "I'm sorry for the guys that thought I'd support AC. Simply can't do it. Rivalry is too strong with Inter," he said.
New dad Molinari confirms he'll play next week's Accenture Match Play, meaning all 64 of world's top performers will be present, probably for the first time.
So Padraig Harrington's first-round draw with two-times winner Geoff Ogilvy next Wednesday stands, as does Graeme McDowell's showdown with Heath Slocum and Rory McIlroy's confrontation with Jonathan Byrd.
Avantha Masters, Sky Sp 1, 8.0am
Northern Trust Open, Sky Sp 3, 8.0pm