Rejuvenated Harrington eyes 4th major win

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,”

Harrington said. ”That’s what you want when you’re going into a

major.

”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 the 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, who 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 Tiger Woods’ slump.

That is 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.