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Harrington Wishes Happy Christmas to the Poor of the Third World

Padraig Harrington is giving that winning feeling to those less fortunate

Posted Dec 08, 2009 by Dermot Gilleece

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After three major championship wins in 14 months from July 2007,  it was perhaps fanciful to think that Padraig Harrington could continue with that level of success through 2009.  As it happens, he didn't have a win of any description this year on either side of the Atlantic, other than the Irish PGA Championship against a local, limited field at The European Club last July.

He has succeeded, however, in giving the winning feeling to those less fortunate than himself.  Like the poor of the Third World who, through the Irish charity GOAL, were the beneficiaries of E50,000 from Harrington last Saturday (December 19th).  The money was raised in a local, Dublin shopping centre where the player, helped by his caddie, Ronan Flood, disposed of a number of "old" sets of Wilson clubs, along with sweaters, shirts and various other memorabilia at knockdown prices.

Harrington also found time to sign countless autographs, but only in return for a contribution to the charity.  It was his way of wishing "Happy Christmas" in a truly meaningful sense.  

Meanwhile, this is the first time in the Noughties that he has ended a season without a tour win.  The last time he drew a blank was in 1999 when he was going through his "runner-up" phase, with five seconds in Europe alone.  His last outing was in the Chevron World Challenge at Thousand Oaks, California, where he was tied third with Lee Westwood behind the winner, Jim Furyk.  That was when another Irishman, Graeme McDowell, took splendid advantage of a late call-up as a replacement for the tournament host, Tiger Woods, by finishing runner-up and securing sufficient world-ranking points to claim a place in the US Masters at Augusta National next April.

Is this latest blank a cause for concern?  "Not really," replied the Dubliner, who reasons that while it could be termed a disappointing season for him where tournament results were concerned, there is a decidedly upbeat aspect to 2009.  "I haven't been aware of being under any real scrutiny because of my failure to win," he said.   "I believe I made significant progress this year in terms of developing by golf swing.  It means I can now look forward to an eight-week break in which to fine-tune the various changes I've made."

As a guest at Thousand Oaks, he had his 76-year-old coach, Bob Torrance, who was experiencing California for the first time.  Prior to this, Torrance was content to limit his travels across America to no further west than Fort Worth, Texas.  where he gained a much-prized audience with his golfing idol, Ben Hogan.

Just press the appropriate button and Bob will talk passionately about that visit to the great man in which they discussed aspects of mutual fascination, related to the golf swing.  And from a layman's perspective, he believes deeply in the Hogan dictum that the answer to all swing problems is to be found in the dirt.  In other words, through dint of hours of patient work on the practice ground.

Much as he admired Hogan, however, Torrance had the good sense not to attempt to teach his famous power fade to the player who would become his star pupil.  Rather did he settle on changing Harrington's low cut to a high draw which became solid enough to deliver his major championship triumphs.  From Thousand Oaks, Torrance and Harrington set off for the Titleist research headquarters outside San Diego.  Not that Torrance would place much store in high-tech elements of the modern game.  For instance, he got Harrington into the right mood for a most productive autumn schedule, simply through lengthy sessions on the practice ground at Turnberry prior to the Open Championship last July.  While it didn't achieve the desired dividend that week, the fruits of their labours became evident at Firestone and then in the PGA Championship at Hazeltine National.
A week later, Harrington was back at his home in south Dublin from where he has been doing the rounds of awards ceremonies.  "I came away from the Chevron with a much clearer picture of what I need to work on during my winter break.   I am looking forward simply to being at home;  not having any deadlines, not having any schedule."

Harrington has never been a prolific winner in the sense that Westwood is.  His 13 victories in Europe, three in the US and another in Japan, have come over a period of 15 years, starting with a breakthrough in the Spanish Open in Madrid in 1996.

But he has always given the impression of being there for the long haul, certainly until after 2016 when he hopes to celebrate golf's return to the Olympic Games.  His total wins could be up to 25 by then.  And if they happen to include further major successes, the chances are that this can be attributed to the work he has done with Torrance, specifically over the last 15 months.

- Dermot Gilleece

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