It was terrific to hear that Padraig Harrington had won the Portugal Masters at Vilamoura last week, in front of hordes of delighted Irish supporters. The last time I saw him play was at the Open at Troon when his opening tee shot went soaring off over the grandstands towards the 18th fairway. It looked like being a long day but Caroline, Padraig’s wife, was her usual equable friendly self, unfazed by the unorthodox route. She’s well used to the ups and downs of a professional golfer’s existence and Padraig has never been orthodox.
The Dubliner, an accountant by training, many years ago, has now worked his way back into the world’s top 100 after falling a long way from the glory years of 2007 and 2008 when he won three major championships and the years when he was a fixture in Europe’s Ryder Cup teams. His autobiography, should it ever appear, will probably run to several volumes, not least because Padraig is anything but taciturn, always willing to share his current theories and, more often than not, baffle more simple souls with the twists and turns of his thought processes.
A modicum of research reveals that Paul Keane has written a book called Obsessed: Inside Padraig Harrington’s Head. I look forward to reading it but can’t imagine how Keane managed to survive the experience and squeeze everything into a mere 240 pages. That’s a bit of a cheap crack from someone who loves listening to Padraig’s interviews and trying to make sense of the convolutions of a man who is always on the move mentally, thinking and tinkering, ever open to new ideas. He also works his spikes off, physically and psychologically and will try anything if he thinks it will help him be better, even that ice cold cryo-wotsit-thingy that speeds recovery from strains and stresses. And, of course, he does twice as long as anyone else.
I think it was the Irish journalist Brian Keogh who once suggested that Joseph Heller, who wrote Catch 22, should be Harrington’s biographer but perhaps James Joyce, author of Ulysses and famed for his singular way of thinking, would have been the man for the job.
Dave Alred, who helped Johnny Wilkinson hone the skills that kicked England’s opponents to oblivion, has written a book called The Pressure Principle: Handle Stress, Harness Energy and Perform When It Counts and Harrington credited it with helping him win in Portugal. He also putted the lights out after picking up a tip from playing with Matt Fitzpatrick and Andy Sullivan. The ever-curious Irishman noticed that the two Englishmen had a black line round the ball and just rolled it along the line. If you roll the ball the ball down the line, that’s good and if the ball misses, you’ve misread the line. If it’s not rolling properly, it was a bad stroke/strike. Simples, as a certain irritating meerkat might say. “I’m having an obsessively good time practising it,” Harrington said.
He has always been his own man and is always open to new ideas but keeps an eye on the numbers, as befits his accounting background: “I keep my own stats because they show what’s good and what’s not and what it takes to win. It’s never been about hitting fairways and greens. Holing putts, getting up and down and pitching, those are the things that matter to me in a competitive week. When I go back and look at my stats for scrambling this week [in Portugal], I would say I was better than 100 per cent.”
Way to go Padraig.
On a sad note, Dr David Sheahan, one of Ireland’s great amateurs, died this week at the age of 76. Our condolences to his family and friends. Learn all about the good doctor and his exploits by seeking out a copy of Shane O’Donoghue’s lovely book Legends In Their Spare Time.