Harrington ready for every occasion at Pebble

By Associated PressFebruary 12, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. ' The rain started falling late Wednesday, a sure sign the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was about to begin. And it was sure to bring a smile to Padraig Harrington.
 
The three-time major champion from Ireland is not much different from any other golfer. Give him the choice between 80 degrees and sunshine or 50 degrees and rain that falls sideways, and hell be on the first plane to Palm Springs.
 
But he can play in the cold, in the wind, in the rain'sometimes all of the above.
 
I was brought up playing in this, he said. Its natural to me. I understand it. I can adapt to it. I dont have issues with it. Being brought up in Ireland, you get a lot of different conditions. You can have a nice summers day or you can have a wet and windy day, and you just have to get on with it and adapt.
 
Certainly, thats a trait of mine that has served me well.
 
Even as recently as last year, it should not go unmentioned that he won the British Open at Royal Birkdale in 30 mph wind, and won the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills by playing 27 holes on Sunday because of the rain.
 
But he offered some insight and illustrations of his history with weather and his passion for golf in any conditions.
 
I have never arranged to play a game of golf in Ireland and not played, Harrington said. Theres never been a day. I have played when it snowed, Ive played in all sorts of conditions, but I cant ever remember arranging to play golf and not actually going to play.
 
The worst of it?
 
Harrington played the West of Ireland golf championship every year as an amateur, the first big tournament of the spring held at Rosses Point on the tip of the Emerald Isle where he said the next stop would be New York.
 
As you stand there, its kind of on the sea or kind of on the cliff edge, and you can see the weather fronts come in, he said. And the weather used to get so bad that it was close to gale force winds, hail storms. When the real bad wind came in, you used to have to huddle into little ravines or bunkers to protect yourself from the hail storms.
 
He would wear a T-shirt, a golf shirt, a vest, two sweaters and a rain jacket and still feel the hail.
 
But he remembered one valuable lesson.
 
My old coach, Howard Bennett, used to always say, You get a bad day, 50 percent of the field arent prepared to play in those conditions, and the next 50 percent arent capable of playing in the conditions. So youre only playing 25 percent of the field on a bad day, Harrington said. Whereas on a nice, sunny day, you have to beat everybody.
 
No telling how many he will have to beat when the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am begins on Thursday.
 
The field is the largest in golf, 180 players with 180 amateurs spread over Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills. This is the one tournament that has room for every rookie from Q-school or the Nationwide Tour, and some players who only have status as a past champion. Chris Smith, who hasnt finished in the top 150 on the money list in five years, got in as an alternate.
 
The field is strong. Harrington is among three players from the top five in the world ranking'joining Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh, back from a minor knee surgery'while Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk made it five of the top 15.
 
The last three PGA Tour winners'Nick Watney (Buick Invitational), Perry (FBR Open) and Pat Perez (Bob Hope Chrysler Classic) are playing, as are David Toms and Davis Love III.
 
What kind of weather they face remains a mystery, which is typical of Pebble.
 
Remember, this is the tournament that was delayed in 1962 because of snow. Jimmy Demaret rolled out of bed at the Lodge, saw snow on the 18th green and quipped, I know I had a lot to drink last night, but how did I end up in Sun Valley?
 
But as bad of a rap that Pebble gets this time of the year, weather hasnt been an issue since Tiger Woods won on a Monday in 2000.
 
Toms is back for the first time since he missed the cut in 2002, in part because he is No. 66 in the world ranking and this is the final week to qualify for the 64-man field at the Accenture Match Play Championship.
 
The last few times I was here, the weather was extremely iffy at best' probably a lot like were going to have again, he said. So maybe its my fault.
 
Also back at Pebble is Mark Calcavecchia, although hes not sure why. He stopped playing the Sony Open and Buick Invitational, missed the cut in his two starts in the desert, and figured hed better play somewhere.
 
Plus I kept hearing the weather has been good here, so I figured Id better put a stop to that, he said. I played in 2001 and it took me three years to get over it. Played here in 2004 and it took me five years to get over that.
 
Sounds like he might not be in that 25 percentile to which Harrington referred.
 
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    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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    Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

    He picked up his clubs three times.

    That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

    This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

    Not that he was concerned, of course.

    Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

    “It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

    At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

    “I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

    Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

    Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

    Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

    In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

    That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

    “He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

    “I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

    Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

    Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

    So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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    Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

    By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

    Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

    Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

    Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

    He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

    “I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

    “With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”

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    Reed's major record now a highlight, not hindrance

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 2:46 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The narrative surrounding Patrick Reed used to be that he could play well in the Ryder Cup but not the majors.

    So much for that.

    Reed didn’t record a top-10 in his first 15 starts in a major, but he took the next step in his career by tying for second at the 2017 PGA Championship. He followed that up with a breakthrough victory at the Masters, then finished fourth at the U.S. Open after a closing 68.

    He’s the only player with three consecutive top-4s in the majors.

    What’s the difference now?


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “The biggest thing is I treat them like they’re normal events,” he said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I’ve always gone into majors and put too much pressure on myself, having to go play well, having to do this or that. Now I go in there and try to play golf and keep in the mindset of, Hey, it’s just another day on the golf course. Let’s just go play.

    “I’ve been able to stay in that mindset the past three, and I’ve played pretty well in all three of them.”

    Reed’s record in the year’s third major has been hit or miss – a pair of top-20s and two missed cuts – but he says he’s a better links player now than when he began his career. It took the native Texan a while to embrace the creativity required here and also to comprehend the absurd distances he can hit the ball with the proper wind, conditions and bounce.

    “I’m sort of accepting it,” he said. “I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with doing it. It’s come a little bit easier, especially down the stretch in tournament play.”