Category: Archive

His finest hour

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Even when he had broken into the world’s top-10 rankings, Harrington would take great care not to bracket himself with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els. If it was part of a psychological game to keep himself hungry and ambitious, he still didn’t really believe he was blessed with the same sort of gifts as the elite. He might not beat them with sheer talent, but he could always out-work them.
So much of the last 10 years was spent with his veteran coach, Bob Torrance, learning a swing and a method that would make him competitive on those four occasions in a season when the major trophies were on offer.
Plagued by, but undeterred by, second-place finishes, he still managed the sort of consistency which would bring him 14 titles worldwide including PGA Tour wins at the Honda Classic and the Barclays Classic.
Following near misses at the 2002 British Open and the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in 2006, he came to the conclusion that his swing was good enough to take the pressure the Sunday back nine of major can bring. All he had to do now was get his head right.
Mental strength had always been one of the boxes he ticked, but he reckoned there were times when he was holding himself back because not that he’s in need of psychoanalysis or anything like that, but because there are really two people inside Padraig Harrington’s head.
One is logical, rational, and at times infuriatingly dominant. It’s the side of him that invariably finds a seat at the front of the class, that has all the answers based on probability – not too surprising for someone who is a qualified accountant.
The other Padraig Harrington who wants to freewheel, to drive without Sat Nav, struggles to be heard. One side vies with the other in a constant battle of wills, with the analytical mind usually winning through.
In his quest for golf’s ultimate glory, Harrington acknowledged that no matter how far Cartesian reason had brought him, now and then he had to learn how to suppress it. The voice telling him that he had to practice and then practice some more, that he had to get back in the gym, that a six-shot lead was insurmountable, had to be occasionally silenced.
“Put it this way,” he says, “I lie to my subconscious mind. That’s it really.”
And last summer, after winning the Irish Open, and playing himself into some good form coming up to the British Open, he found himself in contention going into the final day at austere Scottish links of Carnoustie. In fact, one side of his brain was trying to tell him that giving six strokes to Sergio Garcia was way too much and he hadn’t a snowball’s chance in hell, while the other was trying to convince him that he could become the first Irish player for 60 years to win a major championship.

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