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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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

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There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

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“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”