After winning both the Open Championship and the PGA Championship in 2008, Padraig Harrington closed out that season as the 4th best player in the world, at least according to the Official World Golf Rankings. He’d finally found his stride, or so everyone believed anyway.
Except Paddy himself.
Then came the tinkering with his swing, quickly going from a few subtle tweaks to becoming a complicated, time-consuming major swing overhaul. His then but-now-former swing coach, Bob Torrance, advised against it. “He has been going down one road that I think is wrong,” Torrance said in an interview last August. “He is determined to go down that road, the wrong one. I said to him: ‘You’re going down the wrong road, if you go down too far, you won’t come back.’ You cannot make changes at 40 in golf. You can make them when you are in your 20s but once you get to 40 it is too late.”
So far, Torrance’s words have proved prophetic. Harrington’s once-reliable consistency became notably less reliable in 2010, as he only managed 5 top-10′s and missed the cut in 3 of the 4 majors that season. He finished the year ranked 25th in the OWGR. But as bad as 2010 might’ve seemed, 2011 was moderately worse. Harrington managed only 3 top-10′s last season and once again failed to make the weekend in 2 of the year’s 4 majors. In June, Harrington fell outside of the top-50 in the world rankings for the first time since 1999, and had slipped to 85th by the end of the season.
Harrington has split time between the European and PGA Tours thus far this season, with his best finish in Europe coming at the Volvo Champions back in January where he went on to finish 10th. A few weeks later he finished T7 at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but failed to break the top-40 in his following 2 starts on this side of the pond. But the one thing that Padraig Harrington has is a surplus of patience, and his patience was remarkably rewarded on Thursday in his opening round at the Transitions. Harrington played the opening 9 at 5-under par, making the turn in 31, and made 5 more birdies coming in, for a bogey-free round and a new course record at Copperhead of 10-under 61. (you can admire Harrington’s opening-round scorecard HERE)
Afterward, Harrington talked at length about the expectations that follow a 2-major winning season like he had back in 2008, which also ties into his reasoning behind his swing changes. “I won three majors in 2007, 2008. It’s not like I was going to win two a year after that,” Harrington said. “At the end of the day, I may go on and win more majors, but if you look at any, like the likes of, say, Faldo who, has won the most majors of any European, six major, he didn’t win them over a space of two or three years. He won them over a 20-year space, or 15, anyway.
“(In) sports, we have this thing, especially in golf, that somebody who plays well, a lot of people think, oh, they are just going to continue to play well; they may improve, but it’s going to be little up-and-downs as they go along,” he said. “I think that’s the greatest thing I’ve learned over 16 years of golf. I watch everybody’s game and I have a greater understanding when I see somebody playing great, I understand how it ebbs and flows, and I don’t necessarily go, right, he’s won a major, so that means he’s going to win one every year. But even Tiger, he hasn’t won one every year. We get sucked into thinking that somebody playing well can maintain that. But you know, they will over their career but not year-to-year.”
About his performance on Thursday? “I play better on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday than I do on the Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday,” Harrington said. “I’m trying to stay patient. I know my game is good. One of the hardest things is to wait with confidence. I’m feeling like things are ready to happen. Obviously, today it showed the potential. Today is a peak. But we’ll wait and see what happens over the next number of weeks.”
One thing is certain: Padraig Harrington doesn’t feel like his best golf is behind him. After his remarkable 10-under performance on Thursday at Innisbrook, a lot of people would agree with him.
Had Padraig Harrington not been playing this week, University of Auburn grad Will Claxton would’ve likely been the leader heading into Friday. Will had a very solid opening round of 7-under 64, with 5 birdies, an eagle, and no bogeys. He finished T20 last week in the Puerto Rico Open. Claxton finds himself 3 shots back and in solo 2nd going into Friday’s 2nd round.
Cameron Tringale, William McGirt, and Jason Bohn join notables Jim Furyk, John Senden, Kenny Perry, and Jason Dufner at 5-under par, all tied for 3rd.
T-10 @ 4-under: Brendon de Jonge, Stewart Cink, David Toms, Joe Ogilvie, Chris Couch, Justin Rose, Luke Donald, George McNeil, Robert Garrigus, Bryce Molder
Tom Lewis, the 21-yr-old Englishman making his PGA Tour debut this week at the Transitions, carded three bogeys that were offset by 2 birdies, for an opening round of 1-over 72.
For a full view of the leaderboard, click HERE.
For a full recap of Thursday’s action at the 2012 Transitions Championship, click HERE.