Rejuvenated Harrington eyes 4th major win
LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England (AP)
Some players crumble when they arrive at the majors. For Padraig Harrington, it's usually just the opposite.
The amiable Irishman with two British Open titles and a U.S. PGA Championship already to his name has been saving his best form this year for the sport's biggest tournaments.
An eighth-place finish at the Masters was followed last month by a fourth at the U.S. Open - this from a player whose best days appeared to be behind him after that golden spell from July 2007 to August 2008.
With his putting foibles seemingly rectified and his swing improved under a new coach, Harrington is climbing slowly back up the rankings.
And he had a twinkle in his eyes when he spoke on Tuesday about his chances at this week's British Open.
''I'm in good form and I'm in a good enough place that it is about managing where my head is at going into this tournament. That's what you want when you're going into a major,'' Harrington said.
''You don't want to be here searching for your putting stroke or your swing or anything like that.''
Harrington has spent the last couple of years doing exactly that.
In June 2011, he dropped out of the top 50 for the first time since 1999. The nadir was in April this year when he found himself at No. 96 and contemplating life outside top 100.
Suddenly his work with coach Pete Cowen, who replaced Harrington's longtime mentor Bob Torrance, and renowned sports psychologist Dave Alred started to pay dividends.
A new swing eased the pain on his troublesome shoulder and neck. Tinkering with his putting technique to make him more consistent from shorter range has made him more deadly on the greens.
It certainly showed at the Scottish Open last week, where his long-distance putting was particularly impressive.
''I've been putting better, that's essentially it,'' Harrington said. ''I'm playing better, too, but the putting really does help. It's nice to see the putting has returned in its own shape or form and the rest of the game is pretty solid on top of that.
''So hopefully it will be good enough this week to get me across the line.''
Now back to No. 59, Harrington is leaving nothing to chance as he seeks a third British Open title in six years that would move him into the realms of golf's greats.
He played in Scotland last week to give himself exposure to the links game, having done the same at the Irish Open last month. He has also been spotted on the Lytham greens with a spirit level, assessing the undulations of the putting surfaces.
''If I get one or two more pins right, it will be worthwhile,'' he said, chuckling. ''Just calibrating my eyesight more than anything else.''
Only 19 players in the history of golf have won more majors than Harrington, whose last won at the U.S. PGA at Oakland Hills four years ago.
Since then, there have been 14 different winners at the grand slams, with players taking advantage of the slump in form of Tiger Woods.
That's why he believes lifting the claret jug for a third time, after wins at Carnoustie and Royal Birkdale, isn't beyond reach.
''I think in recent times that feeling of patience and the feeling of a tournament being like a marathon has gone away - it tends to be a sprint from Thursday morning,'' he said.
''Guys are turning up and if it's their week they can win any week,'' Harrington said.
''Rather than the attitude of, `I've got to be there all the time and serve my apprenticeship nearly before I win.' They're quite happy to keep charging and not back out, which is why you're seeing a greater variety of players winning,'' he added.