x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Harrington hopes pain will be worth gain

Padraig Harrington is in the middle of what he calls a short-term sacrifice to what he hopes will be long-term gains.

Padraig Harrington of Ireland watches his tee shot on the third tee during a practice round ahead of the British Open championship at the Turnberry Golf Club in Scotland.
Padraig Harrington of Ireland watches his tee shot on the third tee during a practice round ahead of the British Open championship at the Turnberry Golf Club in Scotland.

TURNBERRY // Padraig Harrington is in the middle of what he calls a short-term sacrifice to what he hopes will be long-term gains. The problem is the whole of the golfing world is watching as the Irishman struggles to recapture the tremendous form which has seen him win three major championships. Harrington, who sets out at Turnberry tomorrow seeking an unlikely hat-trick of British Open titles, will walk on to the first tee more in hope than expectation after making modifications to the swing that saw him emerge as the most serious threat to Tiger Woods's global supremacy.

It has been a painful and, at times, embarrassing process with the adjustments taking longer to implement than he expected and his misfortune coming under intense media scrutiny. The loss of his previously deadly accuracy off the tee has being joined by a normally outstanding short game deserting him to compound his spell of misery. "Now when I make mistakes they are turning into bogeys or worse," he lamented.

Harrington, formerly one of the best in the business at scrambling pars from errant approach shots, knows that the thick Turnberry rough he has encountered in four practice rounds so far is not taking prisoners. Keep it on the fairways or pay the price, he has learned, mindful also that the Turnberry bunkers are also liable to inflict heavy penalties on those who enter them. But he has also concluded that he cannot shy away from unzipping the biggest club in the bag if the situation demands, even if the consequences prove to be calamitous.

"This course definitely suits somebody who's going to drive the ball very well," said Harrington. "The rough is very lush at the bottom. "If you hit it in there it is going to be a big struggle, but you do need to hit the driver. "It's a long course, especially if there's a little bit of wind. You're going to have to hit the driver and hit it straight." There was more than a "little bit" of wind swirling around the South Ayrshire links yesterday.

If that freshens later in the week and the heavy rain of Monday returns, it could be an uncomfortable defence of the Claret Jug for Harrington. Harrington, who will also defend his US PGA championship in Minnesota next month, described his form as "sketchy" but was glad to receive a welcome boost to morale by winning the Irish Open on home soil last weekend when most of his counterparts were engaged at Loch Lomond in the Scottish Open.

"I definitely feel I will be a better player when I've completed this process," said Harrington, who overcame adversity at Royal Birkdale a year ago when he overcame severe wrist pain to make a successful defence of his title. "I have done this kind of thing before. Going forward as a player is all that matters to me." wjohnson@thenational.ae