Pádraig Harrington: Major experience will stand to me in close contest

Pádraig Harrington clearly knows what it takes to win a major championship. It does not necessarily mean he will be able to deliver a fourth title on Sunday at Baltusrol but his 2008 PGA Championship victory could offer the blueprint.

Much like six years ago at Oakland Hills in Detroit, there are thunderstorms on the horizon here in New Jersey and with those come delays.

Harrington managed those to perfection in ‘08, taking locker-room power naps in the breaks in play and emerging strongest down the stretch as he saw off Sergio Garcia and others to clinch back-to-back majors three weeks after his successful Open title defence at Birkdale.

So while he has erased his 2005 missed cut at Baltusrol from the memory banks, his experience three years later may well prove invaluable should the 44-year-old find himself in contention once more at the business end of the final major of 2016, just as he was in last year’s Open at St Andrews.

“I think those sort of things come back, more to do with handling the pressure and how you feel about things all the way through the week, in your preparation and especially on Sunday if you are in contention. I think that’s when having won these tournaments makes a big deal,” Harrington said.

“Up to that, yeah, it’s important to know that I have the winning formula. That I don’t need to do anything different to what I did in 2008, or 07, in that sense, so that’s a big plus. And then it’s a big plus if you’re coming down the stretch having won one. You know how the feelings are.

“I don’t necessarily know if I’ve got a chance of winning on Sunday that I’ll be more relaxed than the next guy if I’ve got one, what does this matter? I don’t think that’s my sort of outlook but I’ve won one of these, I know what I should be feeling like coming down the stretch and I’ll be able to respond to that.

“I certainly can read the situations well now. It doesn’t mean I get it right but I can read it well and, yeah, I’d like to be in contention with nine holes to play.”

The additional ingredient of potential weather delays also harks back to Oakland Hills and with temperatures at Baltusrol in the 90s all week until Sunday, that means Harrington has been mindful of conserving energy during his practice rounds.

That AW Tillinghast’s Baltusrol Lower course is a straight-forward American parkland layout has helped matters considerably in the 44-year-old’s preparations.

“You know, if you went through the players this week I’d say this would be the least amount of practice holes played by a field. It’s hot and you can play it with your yardage book, this course.

“The greens have big slopes and that but it’s not like you can’t see the slopes. It’s all there in front of you.

“It’s all about not overdoing it Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. As I said, this golf course, you just have to accept you can play it with a yardage book and not read too much into it. It’s not like playing a links golf course where it changes every day. Even if it does change, your yardage book’s going to be good enough.”

Harrington is not the only Irishman returning to Baltusrol 11 years on. Darren Clarke also missed the cut first time around while Graeme McDowell was making his third PGA appearance in 2005 and made his first cut in the championship, finished tied for 37th.

Yet the Portrush man arrived in New Jersey this time around under a cloud, having missed the cut at last week’s Canadian Open.

Shane Lowry feels he has got rid of his demons that followed him from the US Open last month after he let slip a four-shot 54-hole lead at Oakmont, eventually finishing second to Dustin Johnson.

There was still baggage when he shot an opening 76 in his next start as defending champion at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and then missed consecutive cuts at the Scottish Open and Open but the 29-year-old is determined to leave it behind him this week.

“I just need to get there mentally. I’m hitting the ball well, I feel good on the greens. Feeling good about the week. Not going to put too much pressure on myself,” Lowry said.

“I need to have a good week. See how it goes. Try and shoot a good score on Thursday because I was shooting myself in the foot a little bit on the last few Thursdays.

“Three (opening rounds) in a row, and you’re basically playing your way out of a tournament.

“I need to get back down to trying to shoot a decent score Thursday. I always said you can lose a tournament on Thursday but you can’t win it. You just have to play your way into the tournament nicely and see what happens.”


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