Story 3 - Irish Eyes Are Smiling

By Rex HoggardDecember 26, 2008, 5:00 pm
Top 10 StoriesIn signature self-effacing style, Padraig Harrington jokingly reasoned last week that hed won the PGA Tours Player of the Year Award by a single vote. There is no way of knowing the Irishmans margin of victory since the Tour protects election results like Tiger Woods safeguards 54-hole leads.
 
But the fact the tally took place in Florida, the undisputed home of the hanging chad, likely didnt sit well with the canvassing board. Thankfully, less than 24 hours later, Harringtons primary challenger in the player of the year polls put the matter to rest with a dismissive, if not decisive, wave of the metaphorical white flag.
 
Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington kisses the Wanamaker Trophy at Oakland Hills. (Getty Images)
He won two (majors), Woods said.
 
The man who keeps time with Grand Slam glory dismissed his four titles in six starts and one of the greatest one-legged exhibitions in the history of the game and recognized the merits of simple math. Two of kind ' at least the major championship kind ' beats a royal finish at any table.
 
But it wasnt the view from the top so much as the climb that amazed Harringtons long-time sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella five months earlier from his perch atop a windswept English dune.
 
Hes been getting ready for this for a long time, Rotella said as Harrington celebrated his second British Open title in 12 months. There is a difference between swing confidence and self confidence. All of these guys have the swing, but its taken him some time to get to where he is now mentally. He has such clarity, so much peace over shots.
 
In practice, Harrington put that clarity to the test to produce two of the years most clutch haymakers.
 
At Royal Birkdale, Harrington began the final round trailing Greg Norman by two strokes. By the time he stepped to the exposed 17th tee hed forged a two-stroke cushion. There would be no Carnoustie calamity this time.
 
From the middle of the fairway Harringtons caddie Ronan Flood asked his boss if he wanted to lay up. The answer was a walk-off 5-wood to three feet for eagle and a long overdue stroll up the 18th fairway, claret jug firmly back in his hands.
 
You can't have enough shots in the lead going down 18. I proved that last year, Harrington said. It helped me enjoy the last hole.
 
Less than a month later Harrington delivered the sequel, a 5-iron bullet to 10 feet at the 71st hole of the PGA Championship that sank Sergio Garcias major championship hopes for the second time in six Grand Slam gatherings.
 
Harrington became the first European to win the Wanamaker Trophy since Tommy Armour in 1930, and the first to win back-to-back majors.
 
With the games top card doing time on a stationary bike in central Florida, Harrington effortlessly filled the void of alpha male. It was a lofty prospect that seemed pure fantasy as recently as 2005.
 
Prior to Harringtons breakthrough U.S. victory at the 05 Honda Classic, he was viewed largely as a good player with a good heart but hardly a world-beater or a serviceable stand-in for the worlds No. 1. He followed that victory with another at the Barclays Classic and his 2007 British Open bout with Garcia proved he had the game and mental toughness to beat the worlds best, and a beastly finish.
 
While Carnoustie may have been the culmination of all that hard work, Harringtons ultimate Grand Slam epiphany came at the 2006 U.S. Open where he finished two shots behind eventual winner Geoff Ogilvy after a messy bogey-bogey-bogey finish.
 
I walked off the 18th hole (at Winged Foot) . . . and said to Bob Rotella, Now I know Ill win a major, Harrington said. Yes, I lost. I was one of the losers at Winged Foot . . . But I walked away from that tournament knowing I could win a major.
 
And 2008, a career calendar that inexplicably ended in pedestrian fashion when Harrington played his way out of the Tour Championship in the playoffs, proved he had evolved into much more than simply a good player with a good heart.
 
That Player of the Year trinket ' whether it was won by a single vote or a landslide ' was simply a cherished nod from the electorate.
 
It is an individual game when we're out there competing, but you do want and crave the respect of your fellow pros, Harrington said. It compares equally to winning a major championship. I can't believe I can actually say something can compare to going out there and winning a major championship, but this accolade, no doubt in my mind is right up there.
 
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.