Two very welcome things happened in golf this week – one of which was far more surprising than the other.
While it was not unexpected that Royal St George’s would vote to allow women members, given the increasing pressure to do so in order to remain a viable host for the Open Championship, a former Open champion returning to the winners’ circle was a genuine shock.
Padraig Harrington began the Honda Classic ranked 297th in the world after a long slide down the rankings from a high of third in February 2009.
Few, if any, pundits gave the three-time major winner a second thought before the event began, with all eyes focused on world number one Rory McIlroy making his 2015 PGA Tour debut after winning in Dubai a few weeks earlier.
And that was hardly surprising given that Harrington’s previous four events in America had produced the meagre return of three missed cuts and a share of 56th place in the Northern Trust Open.
However, what had gone largely unnoticed was the victory in Indonesia on the Asian Tour late last year which lifted Harrington from the depths of 371st on the rankings to 260th – a victory which gave the Dubliner renewed belief he still had what it takes to compete at the highest level.
From the outside it was easy to criticise Harrington for constantly tinkering with a swing which brought him three major titles in the space of 13 months - the 2007 Open, the 2008 Open and the 2008 US PGA Championship.
But, while Harrington admits he is “fascinated” by the sport and in a way cannot help himself, he said it was the mental side of his game that was the biggest problem.
Speaking before last year’s Open at Hoylake – where he missed the cut – Harrington said: “I am right in that mode of (when) things aren’t happening for me and I’m trying too hard.
”I’d love to tell you that it’s easy not to try too hard, but I am just a little bit too intense. I don’t mean I have a bad attitude, but I need to be a bit less intense about it. Obviously I always have been that way, but I am just over-trying a little bit.”
Always has been and probably always will be. But hopefully Harrington can relax enough to enjoy his return to the Masters at Augusta next month and get back to his best.
Davis Love will get more experience of team golf before next year’s Ryder Cup at Hazeltine after being named as an assistant to United States’ Presidents Cup captain Jay Haas.
Love, who was confirmed as 2016 Ryder Cup captain last week, joins Fred Couples in assisting Haas in Korea in October, while International team captain Nick Price will be aided by Mark McNulty and Tony Johnstone and vice-captain KJ Choi.
“I’m ready to help Jay and the team as much as I can as a captain’s assistant,” Love said. “Jay and I were successful as assistants for the last Presidents Cup in 2013, and I am very excited to join him and the US Team in South Korea this fall.
“I love being in the team room and positively impacting the US side anyway I can. As the season progresses, I look forward to playing with some of the US Team as I still play on the PGA Tour quite a bit. But I am happy to help Jay and the team however I can.”
What are the odds of the player ranked 297th in the world winning a tournament in three consecutive weeks?
Normally they would be astronomical, but technically it is just 66/1 this week as those are the odds of Steve Webster winning the Africa Open in East London.
James Hahn was ranked 297th in the world when he beat Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey in a sudden-death play-off for the Northern Trust Open a fortnight ago, while Padraig Harrington was also 297th before winning the Honda Classic in a play-off on Monday.
Webster is the new number 297 after finishing joint 18th in the Joburg Open on Sunday so maybe 66/1 on the Englishman to win in a play-off in South Africa might be a good bet.