Harrington happy back on the links

HE MAY have been written off a few times in the last couple of seasons but Pádraig Harrington remains determined to prove he has the game to add to his haul of three major championships.

Much has been made of the Irishman’s slide down the world rankings since his back-to-back major successes in 2008 and this year alone he has fallen from 23rd at the start of 2011 to his current standing of 57th.

Yet if there’s anywhere Harrington can succeed and reestablish himself as one of the game’s top dogs, it is on a links course, and having won two British Opens inside the last four years, this week’s championship at Royal St George’s presents the perfect opportunity to get back in the groove.

“I wouldn’t say I feel confident. Obviously there’s a lot of positives, having won a couple of them recently, I’m a good links player so I’m familiar with the territory and I like the idea of it,” Harrington said yesterday.

“I haven’t played my best golf yet this year so I’m still looking for that little bit of a spark. Maybe the week of an Open Championship is the place to find it.”

Harrington is pleased with his build-up to tomorrow’s opening round on England’s Kent coast having turned in a tie for 14th place at last weekend’s weather-curtailed 54-hole Scottish Open. The opportunity to prepare on a links layout at Castle Stuart was gratefully received.

“I think it was great preparation,” he said. “It was just getting used to hitting off the tight lies. Getting used to how far the ball goes on links turf. Hitting punched shots, all that sort of stuff.

“You just have to get familiar with it again and last week was a great week for that.”

Winning an Open, though, on a storied links like Royal St George’s and in the pressure cooker of a major, is another step up but Harrington has been there, done that — at Carnoustie in 2007 and Royal Birkdale a year later — and he believes he can do it again.

“You always feel like you can win again in a major. Would I have taken two or three majors at the start of my career? Well I’d have taken two or three tournaments at the start of my career. That’d be a very successful career. Winning majors would have been beyond my expectations but now I’ve done it, I have high expectations.

“I’ve got the game to do it. I feel in good stead. I won’t say I have it all put together and am just sitting waiting here for Thursday to start.

“I’m playing well enough to get over the finish line. It’s just a question of matching the two parts up. I’m probably hitting the golf ball a bit better than I have in the past. I swing it better and hit it better. The short game is strong enough. I just haven’t been putting well. That would be the normal strength of my game and I have to be patient and let it come back.”

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