Sunday 18 February 2018

Harrington plots Open return as he goes under the knife

Padraig Harrington will undergo surgery for a trapped nerve in his neck today. Photo: Getty Images
Padraig Harrington will undergo surgery for a trapped nerve in his neck today. Photo: Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Pádraig Harrington will undergo surgery for a trapped nerve in his neck today but hopes to return in time to try and qualify for the US Open on May 29.

The Dubliner (45) has been struggling for power since injuring his neck during last year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

But after trying every course of treatment possible to avoid going under the knife, he now faces nine weeks on the sidelines after today's operation at Dublin's Mater Hospital.

"It is definitely the right choice," Harrington said. "It is a good time because I am not in the Masters. So I will be back for the US Open, if I qualify, and I will be fit to play in the Irish Open and The Open. Clearly, the time of the year to be fit is in mid-summer."

Harrington has suffered neck problems in the past but this is a new injury and he has found it impossible to release the trapped nerve between the C6 and C7 vertebrae at the base of his neck.

"I've tried everything and it hasn't worked," confessed the three-time Major winner, who felt that delaying surgery any longer would jeopardise his chances of recovering in time to play in his home Open at Portstewart and The Open at Royal Birkdale, the scene of his second Major win in 2008.

"I've tried rest, I've tried physio and I've tried injections," he said. "Obviously, the biggest issue for me is that if I waited any longer, I would miss out on The Open.

"Assuming all goes well, I will be fit and healthy for Birkdale in July. But I will be targeting the US Open Qualifying as my comeback event.

"It is bad enough to lose yardage off the tee, but when you are losing that distance with your irons, it's really difficult. I am probably one club shorter with my irons than I should be. Clearly, I could battle away. But I can't practise and I can't overdo it. So it's better that I have surgery now and play tournaments feeling 100pc healthy."

Ranked 157th in the world, Harrington missed last week's Valpsar Championship and this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, putting paid to any hopes he had of qualifying for the Masters.

But he still hopes to play around 28 events this year and will resume his season by trying to qualify for the US Open in the 36-hole Sectional Qualifier at Walton Heath on May 29. "It just means I will push my season later into the year," said Harrington.

After US Open qualifying, he's looking forward to playing in Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament for the first time since 2009.

Irish Independent

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