Padraig Harrington plans to join Tiger Woods, Ian Poulter and the rest of golf’s world stars on Twitter.
But when asked for a test “tweet” about the second round 70 that left him nine shots off the lead in the Dubai World Championship at halfway, he said: “I’m off to practice my putting.”
The Dubliner used the blade 30 times for the second day in a row, missing four times from short range on the tricky, grainy greens. And while his season won’t end until after next week’s Nedbank Challenge in Sun City, he’s already making plans for 2011.
Those plans include his arrival on Twitter - the social networking site that allows users to send their followers short messages of 140 characters or less.
“I thought I’d have started by now but I haven’t,” Harrington said.
With players like Poulter and Stewart Cink attracting over one million followers, Harrington is aware it is a marketing tool that he cannot afford to ignore.
“It’s all part of marketing,” he said. “I think like all professional golfers we have an ego that we think we’re worth listening to.
“It’s an interesting phenomenon – and at the end of the day, fans of mine want me to be on Twitter.”
Much of what is said on Twitter is good-natured banter and it’s hard to imagine Harrington making fun of Rory McIlroy’s new blond look, as Lee Westwood did yesterday when he tweeted: “I’m just pleased I wasn’t stood next to you when that flock of sea gulls flew over!”
Harrington said: “I’d be more likely to tweet about the latest Harry Potter movie or put out tweets about what my golf is like.”
The Dubliner has two iPhones, one for the US and one for Europe. But he has only left his mobile turned on once in his career and that was in 2003 when his wife Caroline was expecting their first child, Paddy.
As a rules buff, he was quizzed about tweeting during rounds and the possibilty that a player could receive advice on his game or the course from a fan or a coach.
Are there any restrictions, if you’re on a tee for 15 minutes on the par three, are you allowed to Tweet?No issue with that at all. If you use something for the benefit of your game, you can’t then use it on the course.
If somebody tweets you and says ‘you’re moving your head’?That would be okay but if somebody before had tweeted you back ‘you’re moving your head’ and you listened to is, then you wouldn’t be okay because at the moment there’s that issue with the … now you’ll have to go to the referees and find this out. At the moment there’s the issue with the training aids. I can have that stick in my bag and if I don’t use it as a training aid, I can throw it out on the ground on the tee box and do nothing with it. But if you do use it as a training aid and it comes out on the tee box, then it’s a training aid and you are penalized. Once you’ve used it as a training aid then you can’t use it on the golf course. Like, there’d be no reason why you couldn’t use Twitter on the golf course.
But if someone Tweeted you to say you’re moving your head, surely that’s outside assistance? You can run up and tell me I’m moving my head on the 18th and I wouldn’t listen to you, so that wouldn’t be outside assistance. Yet what if it was somebody you knew? But if it’s your coach you get penalized. What I’m saying is if Bob who coaches me does it, then I’m penalized.
What if it’s (your brother) Tadhg?
He doesn’t coach me.
But you’d listen to him?
Well it depends, Tadhg actually would be a problem because I have listened to him in the past so he couldn’t do it. (My wife) Caroline couldn’t do it but a random could because they are not my coach and I don’t listen to them. Often you get in tournaments where you’d be walking up onto a green and somebody would should ‘everybody has left this putt short’. What are you meant to do with that? It’s the worst advice you’d ever get.
When you are on a tee if you see a Tweet effectively it’s the same as listening to something?
It doesn’t matter if you come across it by mistake or not. What matters is the person who is tweeting you is not someone you’ve taken advice from before. If it is, then it’s taking advice from an outside agency.
But you’re unlikely ever to have your phone on?
Totally unlikely. I’ve only ever had it on once, when Caroline was expecting Paddy.
Darren Clarke doesn’t tweet but he was frustrated on the greens as he hit a second successive 71 to lead the Irish challenge on two under with Peter Lawrie’s fine 67 leaving him a shot further back alongside Rory McIlroy (72).
Lawrie opened with a four over 76 but while he closed out his second round with a bogey six by taking four to get own from a trikcy position right of the 18th green, he’s determined to finish his season on a high.
“I came in here playing lovely and yesterday I was just disgusted with myself shooting four over, I really was,” Lawrie said. “I came in thinking I had a chance this week and the to shoot that kind of score was really disappointing.
“Every time I had a decent yardage in my hand today I went straight at the flag and hit it very close, holed a few putts and missed a few. To be honest, 67 wasn’t very flattering for the way I played.”
Ranked 112th in the world, Lawrie needs a top finish to break into the top 100 and achieve one of his goals for the season.
“I have always had ambitions,” he said. “I mightn’t give that impression but I have always had a desire to do well.
“Making the top 100 in the world was the goal at the start of the year. And by playing in the better fields it is easier to move up the world rankings. I have been very consistent but just haven’t holed my fair share of putts at all this year. Not even close to it.
“It is the only stat that I have gotten worse in this year. A satisfactory finish here would be a top 10 but I shot myself in the foot yesterday by finishing 11 back. Hopefully we can keep on crawling up the leaderboard a little bit.”
As for the Irish Open, Lawrie has his theories about how to save the event though he is less than clear about how to raise the €4m plus needed:
I thought the Irish Open could go back to the people and maybe like the British Open, maybe the GUI could get involved and get some of the clubs trying to get involved in the pro-am to try and generate some cash that way. It was a wonderful venue in Killarney this year and everyone seemed to like it.
Remember, we have the best field in the world that could come to Ireland. We have Graeme McDowell, we have Padraig Harrington, we have Rory McIlroy. We don’t need to entice other players to come. Once we have our home grown players the crowds are going to come. For a sponsor looking at the Irish Open, surely there is value for money there.
Q It would cost €4m to stage a €2m event. How does the numbers add up?I think the tour are definitely looking at keeping the Irish Open but whether they are going to put some money into it, I don’t know. But there are some smaller sponsors out there that sponsored it last year and seem to be interested. I don’t think it is going to have the same amount of money as last year but with the recession we are in, the Irish people need something to go to and something to cheer for.
Q And Killarney? Is it the ideal venue?I had a conversation with David Howell last week and we both came to the conclusion - location, location, location. For a golf tournament, Killarney was brilliant. It was close to the town, there were lots of locals there and everybody came. The weather was good and the golf course was good We don’t need to be going to golf courses that are difficult to get to or are not close to towns or are not interesting to play. It is like when you buy a house and a golf tournament is the same thing. Location.
Harrington and Gareth Maybin (71) are tied for 33rd in the 60-man field on level par with Graeme McDowell (73) joint 42nd on one over and Damien McGrane (78) tied for last on plus eight.
Harrington said: “I didn’t hole any putts yesterday – I just missed a lot today. Yeah, it’s being throwing in a few three-putts and things like that. Over the two days if I’d putted well I’d be doing nicely but there you go.
“I just haven’t felt comfortable on the greens this week. I’ve been putting very well but my alignment feels like it’s out. So I’m just not trusting the reads and you get weeks like that. Some weeks they all go in and this week isn’t one of those at the moment.
“That’s the nature of the game. Very rarely do you put it all together and the weeks you do you have nice wins. You just have to stay patient and wait for that.
“It’s one of those parts of the game. It’s easier to putt well when you don’t play well because you have a lot more short putts and if you do hit a lot of nice shots into the greens, even though they feel like short putts, they’re still 10 or 12 feet and they’re not the same as knocking in four or five footers for par. It’s one of those things in golf that it’s hard to hole all the putts when you play well. It’s just the nature of the game.”