Defiant Padraig Harrington is determined to use his mental strength to ignore his critics and prove he’s not finished as a big time player.
The triple major winner is constantly reminded that he hasn’t won on the European or the US Tour for nearly three years and has slumped from third to 64th in the world rankings since his 2008 US PGA win.
But as he plays second fiddle to newly crowned Open champion Darren Clarke and US Open champ Rory McIlroy this week he’s determined to ignore the doubters.
Insisting he doesn’t have a major problem with his game, Harrington told a packed press conference: “This is about the only time I have to sit down and endure people questioning why don’t you win every week or why haven’t you won.
“I could tell you some great stories. People come up to you and say, ‘You haven’t won since 2008.’
“And I go, ‘Well, I won eight months ago in Malaysia.’ And they go, ‘No, you didn’t. That’s not counting. We don’t want to count that one.’
“Fine, it’s only an Asian Tour event, discount that. So everybody comes up with their own way of judging, too.
“If I win the Irish Open this week, I guarantee it, I’ll turn up in the States in three weeks’ time and they’ll say: ‘Well you haven’t won since 2008.’
“And I’ll say, ‘Well, I won three weeks ago in the Irish Open.’ And they’ll say, ‘Well, it’s not on our tour.’
“Everybody has a completely different way of judging, and uses statistics to establish their point of view. And a winning result is another statistic.
“So, yeah, there’s no doubt, hey, if I win, I’ll enjoy it, and I’ll celebrate and in many ways it will take a monkey off my back. But that monkey is not put there by me.
“I have to be as a professional sportsman and athlete. I have to be very careful about it and make sure that I apply myself in the right way and don’t get caught up in pushing in the wrong direction, rather than being patient and waiting for it.”
Despite all his mental gymnastics and positive thinking, Harrington did admit that he badly needs a result to get some peace and quiet and move on with his career.
As Ireland racks up the major wins, his lone victory in last year’s Iskandar Johor Open (which was actually over nine months ago) now looks like very small beer for a player of his calibre.
All eyes are on Clarke, McIlroy and last year’s US Open champion Graeme McDowell in a sellout Irish Open that could attract up to 100,000 fans.
And while he admits that he’s coming into the Irish Open under the radar for the first time in years, he confessed that he badly needs a result to ease mounting external pressure.
He said: “ I’m not that stressed as I would be coming into my National Open in other years. I’m probably bringing some other stress in with me but not the stress of having to win this, no.
“Just I’d like to win a tournament. It’s been eight months or so and it would be nice to have some good performances. That would be my own personal stress.”
Harrington was second to Ross Fisher last year despite driving the ball all over Co Kerry at times.
His magical short game helped him finish just two shots behind on 16 under par but that element of his game has gone awry in recent months.
He admitted after the Open that he’s lost trust in his green-reading.
But while he reckons he’s got that back under control, he has no idea if his magical putting touch will return when it counts this week.
He said: “Certainly, if I look at any part of my game this year, I’ve been erratic on the greens.
“It’s nice to know what other people go through. Certainly I’ve seen it in me over the first six months of a few tournaments and go, ‘God, I’d hate to feel like this it all the time.’
“Thankfully it’s the strongest part of my game. I think I’m going to have a great week on the greens.
“But as I said, thinking and doing is another thing. We’ll have to wait and see how we get through the four days.”
Harrington famously read the greens for defending Irish Open champion Ross Fisher when they teamed up in last year’s Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor.
And Fisher is confident that the Dubliner will rediscover his putting touch and start winning again soon.
Fisher said: “He doesn’t need any advice from me. He’s good enough. I’m sure Padraig will start holing some putts soon.
“He’s too good a player not to.”