ABU DHABI // Padraig Harrington, winner of three major championships, admitted yesterday to having a compulsive swing disorder.
The Irishman is, apparently, obsessive about changing the way he addresses and hits the ball.
Uncertainty about his grip, stance, posture and striking technique did not stop him from producing an unblemished round of 65 yesterday on a course that he rates as tough as any on the circuit.
Playing alongside two more recent major winners in Martin Kaymer and Louis Oosthuizen, Harrington took the honours in that three ball, ending the first day two shots better than Kaymer and seven better than his South African partner.
"I hit the right shots at the right times and I hit a lot of particularly good shots when I had to," Harrington said before embarking on a bizarre session of self analysis.
"I've made so many changes to my game over the winter. I'm trying to keep it out of my head at the moment which ones are there and which ones aren't. Now that I'm doing well in the tournament I must not try to fix anything for the next three days."
Harrington admitted to having to fight hard to keep the mental demons away as he seeks to restore himself as a contender for the world No 1 ranking currently held by Lee Westwood.
Harrington surprised himself by outdriving the supposedly longer-hitting Kaymer and Oosthuizen on several occasions. "I'm quite happy about that and it didn't do any harm to my scoring either," he said, recounting the bonus of a chipped in eagle at the long eighth which accompanied his five birdies in an eye-catching 65.
After winning three majors in the space of 13 months, Harrington looked destined for greatness but he mustered only two more victories - the Irish PGA and the Asian Tour's Johor Open in Malaysia - in the ensuing two years.
He insisted, however, he did not get deflated by the barren spell. "I had 10 top-10 finishes last year and was in contention a lot of times but I just didn't win," he said. "But anybody who knows me appreciates that I'm the most optimistic person you will meet. I am always looking forward, always excited about getting out there.
"I just didn't deliver for four successive rounds last year and that was the difference.
"On the Sundays of various tournaments I tended to go backwards when in 2008 for instance I tended to move forwards.
"It was frustrating but, no, I didn't get low about it, although it was probably good to see the end of the year and have a break."