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Padraig Peaking

Dermot Gilleece on Padraig Harrington's good mid-season form

Posted Mar 22, 2010 by Dermot Gilleece

padraig harrington

In response to an Irish supporter recently, Padraig Harrington offered the interesting advice: "When I start to show a bit of form, you could do worse than have a bet on me to win this year's Masters."  Of course it's a matter of interpretation, but most of us would be of the view that a share of third at Doral and an eighth place finish in the Transitions last weekend, qualifies comfortably as "a bit of form."       

From Innisbrook, Harrington returned home for a week's break before returning to the US for the Houston Open as his tournament warm-up for Augusta National, which starts on Thursday, April 8th.  This exemplified a notable change in Harrington's major preparation this year.

"I've decided to play only one tournament before each major, rather than the two I played in the past," he explained.  "It used to take me that long to build up, but I feel I can prepare myself more quickly now.  In fact if I were disciplined, I wouldn't need even the one week of preparation.  It would simply mean doing the right things during the week prior to the event."

He went on to make the curious admission: "Playing golf actually stops me from doing bad practice. It takes me two weeks to get ready for a major because it takes me two weeks to stop doing all the bad practice.  And the bottom line is that I believe I should play in the week before a major for the simple reason that I'm still too obsessive to take it off."

In assessing the quality of his Augusta build-up, wayward driving jumps out as a problem area.  At Innisbrook, for instance, he returned a worrying statistic of only 30.77 per cent in driving accuracy which goes a long way towards explaining the only moderately better figure of 50 per cent for greens in regulation.
It will be recalled that he led the Transitions at the halfway stage after rounds of 69 and 65.  His prospects of catching new leader and eventual winner, Jim Furyk, on Sunday, however, disappeared when he drove into water at the 12th.  And similarly wayward driving cost him another bogey at the 18th.

Still, he can draw considerable comfort from the fact that accurate driving won't carry anything like the same importance in the open spaces of Augusta National.  Sure, there is the matter of the primary cut but this is not nearly as punishing as on most tournament courses.  In fact it is designed simply to inhibit control with approach irons to devilishly tricky greens.

In considering his current well-being, Harrington emphasises the importance for a player of his stature of hitting form at the right time of the golfing year.  "My father always told me as a kid that I should aim at playing well in mid-season," he said. "If you're going to pick a time to play well as a tournament professional, aim at doing it through the four majors.  If you study statistics, guys who are winning in December and January don't normally have good summers."

He went on:  "When you spend your winter working on things, as I do, it takes a while to get everything back together again.  I'll be happy if I peak from the Masters through to the Ryder Cup.  That would guarantee me a successful year."

Earlier in his professional career, a seriously inhibiting factor for Harrington as a serious competitor was a laid-back attitude to tournament results.  He tended to treat each performance as a work in progress with no sense of urgency about the important process of winning.  Which goes some way towards explaining why it took him four years - from 1996 to the spring of 2000 - to gain his second victory on the European Tour.

Now, his change of approach to the majors means that Houston next week has to be treated as a serious, dress-rehearsal.  And the elimination of silly mistakes from tee to green must be foremost in his thoughts.

- Dermot Gilleece

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