Harrington has unique definition of a 'good year'

By Doug FergusonJanuary 9, 2016, 7:13 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Padraig Harrington describes 2015 with words like ''grind'' and ''tough.'' It was not what he would refer to as a great year, and it doesn't sound like someone who is part of the most elite PGA Tour event of the year at Kapalua.

This is the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, not the Tournament of Consistency.

''It goes down as a winning year,'' Harrington said. ''But it was hard work every week. Hard, hard work.''

His lone victory wasn't easy. Harrington appeared to have the Honda Classic won until he hit a flare with a 5-iron into the water on the par-3 17th and made double bogey. Right when it looked like all was lost, he squeezed in a 15-foot birdie to get into a playoff, and two holes later on the 17th, he hit 5-iron to 3 feet for the winner.

It got him into the Masters, The Players Championship and a World Golf Championship. It was his first PGA Tour win in more than six years.

And then golf became a grind again.

''As I see it, when you see a player in form, he's walking off the golf course thinking, 'Gee, I played like I should have shot 70' and he's signing for a 68,'' Harrington said. ''When you see a player out of form, he's walking over the golf course saying, 'Yeah, I should have shot 70 today,' and he's signing for a 72. When you're shooting 72 out here, it's just a grind because every day you're on 72, you're looking over your shoulder at the cut line.

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''It's hard,'' he said. ''And that was my year.''

Consider what happened after his victory in the Honda Classic.

He missed the cut eight times. The most comfort he had was the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the British Open, making the cut with four shots to spare. He made it by one shot at The Players. It was a grind.

So there's a difference between a great year, a good year and a winning year (not to mention the bad years). Harrington was at the peak of his game in 2008, when he won the British Open and the PGA Championship, the first European to win successive majors in the same season. He finished the year at No. 4 in the world.

His greatest year ever?

''Statistically, 2012. Form, 2009. But obviously results, 2008,'' he said. ''If you looked at my performances - stroke average, everything - I struggled in 2008, but I won The Open Championship. So 2009 was the year I had the most form tournament-wise, stroke average, that sort of stuff.''

He had one caveat - a big one - for calling his 2012 season statistically his best.

''I had the yips that year,'' he said. ''And so it depends what you want to look at in terms of that.''

Harrington is a different kind of thinker. This is an Irishman who chose to wear glasses even though he had 20/20 vision. He became an ambassador for the R&A and then chose to try a belly putter when it decided to ban the anchored stroke. Most peculiar are his golf balls. He prefers to keep his eye trained on a black dot, and because he can't pick up and place his ball, he has his caddie place eight black dots so at least one of them is pointing toward him.

He also uses cryotherapy - he has a unit in his garage in Ireland - where he exposes his whole body to temperatures at minus 140 degrees Celsius. He used it again after surgery to repair his meniscus. Most people stay in there for three minutes. Harrington does six minutes.

''You go into an ice bath, it will do the job just as nice,'' he said. ''But I don't like an ice bath. I find the cold air quite easy on me. You wouldn't see me take a cold shower. Put it like that.''

Harrington thinks everything through. For example, he believes every athlete should have at least six weeks off before starting a new year. That's one reason he never came to Kapalua in the previous three years he won on the PGA Tour. He would finish his season in Europe, and Hawaii came along much too soon.

So why is he here now?

He stopped playing at the end of October because of his knee surgery, giving him a solid nine weeks without golf.

''Six-plus weeks off, that's the minimum anybody should take in order not to carry stress from one year to the next,'' Harrington said. ''You look at my career, the minimum I've ever taken is seven. But usually I play until the first week of December. I was going to come over to the Fall series over here. My caddie looked at me and he said: 'You're playing stale golf. You need your operation. Go do it.'

''I hate to say it,'' Harrington said. ''It made sense.''

Of course, Ronan Flood is more than just his caddie. He's his brother-in-law.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.