Pádraig doing it his way

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON last night admitted that if “I was a footballer, I’d be on the bench right now but because I’m my own boss, I can live my life anyway I want”.

The three-times major champion was referring, of course, to the slump in his fortunes that has seen him drop from 3rd to 11th in the world rankings in less than 12 months and caused him to miss four of his last five cuts. He is rated a 40/1 outsider by bookmakers for this week’s US Open which accurately reflects the current status of a man who went into 2009 seeking what the Americans referred to as “The Paddy Slam” following on his wins last year in the Open and PGA Championships and has failed to deliver, big time, so far.

Predictably enough, though, Harrington wasn’t for apologising or excusing the changes he has been working on his golf swing with coach Bob Torrance and maintained that he has always tinkered with his game in the hope of making things ever better. He insisted that he himself was prepared to be “patient” and implored his supporters to do likewise.

“I certainly didn’t intend for it to drag on so far into the season but the road to hell is sometimes paved with good intentions,” he stated. “The results are very much a reflection on how I’ve played. I certainly haven’t made things happen. There has been a bit of focus on the work I’ve been doing on my swing but in fairness I have always done that at different stages of my career. The difference now is that I’m a little bit more high profile, the spotlight is on me and people are noticing that I’m doing it.”

One may be clutching at straws when hoping that playing in the same match on Thursday and Friday as Tiger Woods and Angel Cabrera will raise his adrenalin to levels we have not seen for the best part of 12 months. He has partnered Woods on several occasions and memorably beat him down the stretch in his own Target World Challenge in California in 2002 and in a play-off for the Dunlop Phoenix tournament in Japan in 2006.

“There’s no point in me trying to think about who is going to win this tournament or who is favourite or anything like that,” he declared. “It would be very foolish for the other 155 players to start worrying about somebody else. The only person I can control is myself and to be honest, the only person I’m concerned about is myself. Tiger and Cabrera are good guys to play with and so I’m happy with the draw.”

As a result of missing his fourth cut in five tournaments in Memphis last week, Harrington got to Bethpage with two days to spare and took the opportunity to reacquaint himself with the golf course on Saturday and Sunday. He played 18 holes each day, meaning that nine were deemed sufficient after that. Consequently, he had more opportunity, as he put it, “to get my mental game in shape and take a rest”. “I’ll be happier on Thursday that I won’t have overdone things.”

At least that’s one positive he and mind guru Dr Rotella can bring into this, Harrington’s 12th US Open. Then there’s the previous championship here at Bethpage where he played some magnificent golf in trying conditions and partnered Woods in the last match of the third round. The atmosphere that day is still talked about, with Padraig recalling it as something very, very special.

“I thought the crowds were fantastic,” he enthused. “I really had a great time. Obviously I played well and that helped but I have generally played well in boisterous crowds. I like the idea. The more noise around the place, the better for me.”

Harrington and his wife Caroline have become good friends of Phil and Amy Mickelson. And because his dad, Paddy, passed away a few years ago after a long battle with cancer, Pádraig feels he understands what they are going through right now.

“When I was going through an emotional time with my dad a few years ago, I was like every other person, had never dealt with it before and wasn’t 100% sure how to deal with it,” he explained. “But when it comes to golf, obviously I’m reasonably good at hitting a little white ball. I think when Phil’s out there, that’s probably the easiest place for him to be. And the crowds will help, I can’t see them being a negative for him.”

And Pádraig himself? How does he rate his prospects of a quick return to form over the next four days?

“Obviously, I’m not confident because of what has gone on over the last few weeks,” he acknowledged. “But I believe I’ll be as well prepared as I can going out there on Thursday. That’s all I can ask. I’ve got to accept that what won me the other majors is the only way forward for me winning this major. I have to assume that my swing will be there on Thursday. As we say at home, when there’s a lightning storm, it’s too late to get up and thatch the roof. So I’ve got to accept what I’ve got this week.”

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