Paralysis of Analysis

By Randall MellJuly 13, 2009, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship TURNBERRY, Scotland ' Padraig Harrington can make your head spin these days.
 
Gauging the mercurial Irishmans readiness to make history this week is confusing business.
 
Even with his victory at the Irish PGA this past weekend, bookmakers dont particularly favor his chances of winning three consecutive British Open Championships.
 
Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington is going for a third straight Open Championship. (Getty Images)
Though Harrington has won three of the last eight major championships, Ladbrokes makes him only a 25-to-1 shot to win at Turnberry this week.
 
Even after breaking his streak of five consecutive missed cuts with a victory at the Irish PGA last weekend, hes a mess.
 
Im clutching at straws a bit at the moment, trying to find a little key to keep myself occupied, he told assembled media after winning the Irish PGA a sixth time. I wouldnt like to have to play next weeks tournament thinking of such things.
 
Nobodys quite sure what to expect from Harrington as he seeks to become the first player since Peter Thomson (1954-56) to win three consecutive Open titles, and thats not entirely due to the erratic nature of his game. Its the nature of this thinking mans brain and whether hes experiencing paralysis of analysis.
 
Still, Harrington sounds as resolute about his approach to golf as he is bewildered by the state of his swing.
 
After winning back-to-back majors last year, he set out to make his swing even better, though nobodys sure exactly what he was trying to do.
 
NBC analyst Johnny Miller watched him at the U.S. Open and determined that Harrington had changed his ball flight, going away from the fade that helped him win back-to-back majors and fashioning a draw.
 
Not so, Harrington said.
 
I tried to play with a draw when I won the Open in 2007, and the last 18 months, Ive played with a fade, Harrington said. Anytime you saw those hooks, I was aiming left to play a fade. I cant draw the ball to save my life. If I could draw the ball, Id be OK. Thats the reason I stopped trying to draw it, Id make a good swing, trying to draw it, and Id hit it dead-straight right, push it. The last shot I could ever try and play ' this is why Ive been working on my swing ' is to try and draw it. So Ive been trying to fade it. Ive obviously been doing a poor job of it.
 
A lot of fuss has been made over Harringtons obsessive tinkering with his swing, but he says folks shouldnt worry. He says its all part of a process he has been through his entire career, that, ultimately, he has always come out better in the end. He just doesnt know where the end is this time, even with the Irish PGA victory.
 
Im a constant thinker, Harrington said. Ive been doing this since 15 years of age. I dont think I would be comfortable unless I was changing something. It will be interesting if I ever do get to the end of the road, and obviously thats a never-ending road, so I wont get there.
 
Ive always been the type of person where results arent everything in the short term. I know if I keep doing the right things, its worked before, it will work again.
 
Even Harringtons sports psychologist, Bob Rotella, has cautioned him about thinking too much. Rotella sat him down at The Players Championship in May for a stern chat.
 
I wasnt yelling or screaming, but every once in a blue moon, Padraig gets a real strong urge to start working on his swing and gets lost and messed up trying to improve it, Rotella said. Ninety-five percent of the time, he thinks about nothing over a shot. He has gone a year-and-a-half without having a swing thought, just seeing the target, reacting and accepting the shot.
 
Thats how Harrington played a year ago, when he was at the height of his powers.
 
When Harrington hit a 5-wood from 272 yards to 4 feet to set up an eagle and clinch the British Open at the 71st hole at Royal Birkdale last summer, he looked like he had reached another level. He looked like a legitimate threat to Tiger Woods in majors, once Woods returned from reconstructive knee surgery. The year before, Harrington won the British Open at Carnoustie, and he would follow his Royal Birkdale triumph by winning the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills.
 
Harrington currently holds two major championship titles, but its an unsteady grip.
 
After he missed the cut at the U.S. Open last month at Bethpage Black, he sounded lost.
 
I dont have any shape at the moment, Harrington said there. That would be an issue. If I did hit it with a big draw, that would be fine. If I hit it with a big hook, that would be fine. I actually have no shape. Its the old problem, Im aiming at the middle of the fairway, and Ive only got half the fairway to aim at. I hit it left, or hit it right.
 
'There is temptation to go back to what I played with my first couple years as pro, a draw. Even though I did win the Open with it (in 07), I gave up on it the last 18 months. When you are not playing well, its not easy to hit with no shape. If youre not playing well, youre better off putting more shape into it, then youve got a bigger target to aim at. Thats something for me to look into. Im not very confident because Ive only got half the fairway to aim at because Im not sure what shape is going to come out, a fade or a draw.
 
While Ben Hogan was determined to dig golfs secret out of the dirt, Harringtons determined to dig it out of the mind.
 
Harrington spelled it out for the Belfast Telegraph:
 
Its complicated to explain whats going on. I'm trying to understand the whole process [of playing golf] so that I can control it. I wouldn't be able to accept performing without knowing why. I don't think I'd enjoy winning if I didn't know why I was winning. I think the ultimate satisfaction of winning is understanding how I got there. While I admire sporting achievement, I pay very little respect to somebody who wins without knowing why.
 
There are loads of people like me. If I was a tech nerd, I'd be the guy who pulls apart his computer to see how it works. Of course, I've no interest in doing that to my computer. With my golf game, however, I want to pull it apart and see what everything does.
 
Howard Hughes, as a 14-year-old kid, he got his dad to buy him a sports car so he could pull it apart. He spent a month breaking it down bit-by-bit and then putting it all back together. Well, that's me with my golf game.
 
Golf will see this week how much of his game hes been able to put back together.
 
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    Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

    By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

    Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

    Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

    "I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

    Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

    While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

    "I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

    Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

    Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

    By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

    Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

    In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

    Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

    Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

    Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    “I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

    On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

    Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

    Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

    Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

    “The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

    Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

    Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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    D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

    By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

    ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

    ''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

    The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

    Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

    Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

    ''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

    Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

    Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

    Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

    The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

    Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

    ''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

    Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.


    Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


    She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

    Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

    She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

    If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

    ''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

    Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

    Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

    ''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

    Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

    ''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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    Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

    By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

    BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith shot a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

    Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

    One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.


    Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


    McCarron won the Senior Players Championship last year for his first senior major.

    Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.