Harrington hopes majors lead to more confidence

By Associated PressAugust 17, 2008, 4:00 pm
TRYON, N.C. ' Theres little doubt Padraig Harringtons victories at the British Open and PGA Championships mark him as one of the worlds best golfers.
Harrington has started to believe it, too.
Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington with the Wanamaker Trophy, his second straight major. (Getty Images)
Harrington joined Tiger Woods as the only other golfer this decade to win consecutive majors. Harrington thinks hes closer to adding another Tiger-like trait to his bag ' Woods unflappable confidence.
I have traditionally played golf on fear of failure, Harrington said. I believe I need to move to a level where I can use confidence as a way to play better.
Harrington looked confident, calm and relaxed Sunday as he spoke at White Oak Golf & Equestrian Community, where the triple major champion is set to build his first U.S. home.
He spent the past week since winning the PGA Championship decompressing, away from his home country of Ireland and the spotlight that follows his wins. This was good for me, Harrington said, grinning.
Harrington, 36, says hes fueled by the tension that comes from fighting for a title on the back nine, as anyone who watched him take control of the British Open and PGA the past month can attest.
Harrington would like to tee off with the same steadfast belief in victory on the first hole as he has on the 72nd.
I struggle to play my best golf when theres no pressure, he said. The next level for me is about accepting Im a three-time major winner, taking the confidence from that and that will help me earlier in tournaments so I dont have to put myself through the mill.
Harringtons approach worked well enough at the years final two majors.
He overcame Greg Normans three-stroke lead over the final nine holes at Royal Birkdale last month to repeat as British champ. Then Harrington rallied back from one stroke down to defeat Sergio Garcia at Oakland Hills to win the PGA.
Ive got a deep-down confidence that I can battle through anything, Harrington said. I need to have more flamboyant confidence at the start.
Harrington accepts that some will wonder if he ' or anyone else ' wouldve won if Woods, who is out for the season after knee surgery in June, were healthy. Its a valid point, Harrington said. Im not going to worry about it, though.
Harrington wants to work on improving his play, no matter who he faces.
Harrington returns to action Thursday at The Barclays to start the PGA Tours FedEx Cup playoffs. Harrington stood fourth in points after last week with only Woods, Kenny Perry and Phil Mickelson ahead.
A bigger stage for Harringtons swagger is the Ryder Cup matches next month at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.
Harrington was part of the last three winning European squads. This time, he comes in as Europes unquestioned star.
Obviously, Ive been the No. 1 European player for six years. It is interesting that it has taken these major wins to get that across, Harrington said.
As far as a leadership role, that can only come from the other players, he said. Theres no doubt, Ill always make myself available to help anybody else, but in that sense, winning a couple of majors may make people seek advice from me during that week.
White Oak was developed by several Irish businessmen ' some of the courses caps include the Irish flag ' who made Harrington and his family feel at home. Harrington doesnt expect his worldwide schedule to change that much. Hes just happy to have an American base for wife Caroline and their two children when hes on the PGA Tour.
Harringtons next challenge? Ensuring he doesnt stop challenging himself.
Its such a high in my career, it very easily could be the last high. And many players have failed at this point in the past, he says. Thats the key. I have to set new goals.
Count more majors among them. He spent the past few seasons honing his practice schedule to prepare for his sports biggest events, much to the worry of many in his native land, who routinely question why one of their most important sports stars doesnt win more often.
Harrington remembers earlier this year: A delivery man asked what had gone wrong with his play even though he had had four top-5 finishes in nine PGA TOUR events prior to the British.
You can get drawn into it. Winning can bring more pressure if you allow it, Harrington said. You just have to get yourself into doing your own thing.
Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

"The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

“Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.