Fistful of dollars for Pádraig

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON’S bank manager and his many commercial sponsors are all smiling broadly again.

Somehow, the 38-year-old Dubliner has fought back from a season that was unravelling, to such an extent that many wondered if he would ever again be a force in the game, to currently stand eighth in the world rankings, sixth in the Fed-Ex Cup points list on the PGA US Tour and 24th on their order of merit with $2,298,377 to his credit. All but $39,411 of that total has been accumulated in the past six weeks, beginning with the first signs of revival in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in early August.

He earned $655,000 for coming second in that event; $150,633 for 10th place in the US PGA Championship; $495,000 for second in the Barclays Championship, $310,000 for fourth in the Deutsche Bank Championship and $260,625 for sixth in the BMW Championship at the weekend.

That’s a whopping $2,258,966 in the space of six weeks, and while that may pale in comparison with the almost unbelievable $9.698 million Tiger Woods has banked already this year, it still amounts to massive earnings for a man whose career seemed to be in freefall not so very long ago. And there’s more, hopefully lots more, to come in the Tour Championship, the final event of the FedEx Cup, starting at East Lake, Atlanta (the home club of the legendary Bobby Jones) on Thursday week, September 24.

Right now, Pádraig would like nothing better than to be back in Dublin with his wife Caroline and children Paddy and Ciaran. But he has another day to wait as he was involved in a company session in Chicago on Monday and in an advertising shoot yesterday for Titleist.

He will have four days at home before flying out to Atlanta on Monday next for the Tour Championship. While the great likelihood is that the $10m jackpot as Fed-Ex champion rests between the top five in the points list, Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson and Heath Slocum, Harrington in sixth is within touching distance of that group.

And should none of the quintet win the Tour Championship and the Irishman was to do so, then in certain circumstances he could leapfrog all of them. In any case, there is still a whole lot more money to go around and the Harrington bank account will have swollen by another appreciable amount by Sunday week next!

Nevertheless, in spite of all that he has achieved of late, there are many respected commentators who believe Harrington’s game still is well short of where it needs to be. Former Open and US Open champion Johnny Miller, the straight talking NBC analyst, described his driving on Sunday night as “wild” and the stats certainly bear out that contention.

Through two rounds, Harrington hit just 11 of 28 fairways – 39.28%, tied with JB Holmes for the worst percentage in the field. At the conclusion of 72 holes, he was 65th of the 69-strong field in accuracy, hitting only 50% of the fairways, although he was 14th in driving distance with an average of 299 yards. He tied for 21st in greens hit in regulation with 62.5% and tied 10th on 27.3% for putts per round.

Accordingly, it could be deduced that whatever it is that has contributed to Pádraig’s major improvement in recent times, it may have little to do with the much-publicised changes he was making to his swing earlier in the year. Indeed, apart from his scrambling ability, which is rivalled only by Woods, you’d be tempted to believe that his success has a lot more to do with a positive outlook on the game and life in general.

“How could you not enjoy this lifestyle?” he wonders with a broad smile. “Every day you wake up playing professional golf, it’s fantastic. As I always say, I’d play this game for free, just don’t tell anybody. Even on the bad days, you wouldn’t swap it for anything else.

“I know that some of the bad days, they can feel bad at the time. But if you had to sit there and think about it, you’d still rather be out on the golf course. No matter how bad it’s going, you’d still rather be out there trying and working it out. Every day is a good day on the golf course. But I’m glad I was in contention again in Chicago because I do need the adrenalin to keep going. If I was slightly off the lead, I could have gone downhill very quickly.”

Accustomed as they are to watching Woods throw a tantrum when a shot isn’t 100% to his satisfaction, and seeing so many others walk the golf course as though they wished they could be just about anywhere else, this kind of attitude sits very well with the US media and public.

However, Harrington still has to find a way to keep his golf ball in play off the tee. He ran up a double bogey (or worse) for the 13th successive tournament at Cog Hill over the weekend and seems to spend more time than anyone else hitting provisional balls.

“When I hit it, I’m hitting it great,” he maintains. “When I don’t get in the way, I’m hitting it out of the middle of the club face, lovely flight, everything is good. But I’m just not trusting it.”

It’s easy to get one’s head around that kind of reasoning but a lot more difficult to come to grips with his contention that the shape of some practice ranges are not to his liking!

“There was something about the angle of the range last week I didn’t like and every day I went to the golf course, I wasn’t feeling good about my driving,” he stated. “I do have issues with different ranges. There’s no doubt, I’m very fussy. You know, I tried to fight through it. But yeah, I hit a number of really poor shots, for no particular reason. I’m either bombing it down the middle or hitting it wide. It’s all there. It’s just a question of trusting it a little bit more.”


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