By Brian Keogh
Padraig Harrington confessed that he is being too hard on himself in the run up to the Masters.
The Dubliner, 35, tied for 19th place behind a spluttering Tiger Woods on Sunday’s WGC-CA Championship at Doral’s Blue Monster in Miami.
And he admitted that he needs to chill out and accept the good with the bad if he is to be a factor in the season’s first Major at Augusta from April 5-8.
After finishing nine shots behind Woods, Harrington said: “It is just my head, that's all I have to get right. I could easily have saved another five or six shots this week.
“I am more comfortable on the golf course than I have ever been. I took a much better attitude towards the end of last season but this year I have been a little bit harder on myself since the start.
“My expectations are higher and when things don't go right I don't accept it so well. That's what you have got to avoid.
“The more you try to hit everything perfectly the harder it gets, because you can't accept the bad shots.
“You have got to put all your focus into your preparation, the whole process, rather than the result.
“We can hit great shots straight down the pin and they can end up in a bunker or get blown off the green. You can hit a good putt from 15 feet and you can miss or it can go in.
“So if you are worried about your results, you shouldn't be. You should only be focussing on your preparation.
“At the moment I am pushing a little bit - trying a little bit too hard. I just need to ease off.”
The number crunchers worked out that Harrington’s putting was the strongest part of his game at Doral, where Woods had a horrific day on the green in the final round but still wound up winning his 13th WGC title by two shots from Brett Wetterich.
Harrington finished tied for 10th in putts per green in regulation, but he reckons he could have done far better and will spend his time at this week’s Shell Houston Open, honing his short game for the Masters.
Despite 37 single putts in 72 holes, Harrington sank just five of 20 putts between 10 and 20 feet and knows he needs to improve that statistic before he arrives in Georgia.
He said: "I didn't putt well this week after putting well the first four weeks out here and being very happy with it. So I need to work on it for the next two weeks. I have been doubting my lines this week and didn't read the greens well.
“I wasn't hitting my 15 foot putts well. I hit them well for the first four weeks out here but I didn't hit them near as well here.
“Putting, pitching, chipping, bunker play. That all needs work. Swing wise I am happy. I am hitting all the shots I want to hit but it is just about being in the right frame of mind.
“As I know it takes me a couple of weeks to get this right and I can do that best, not on the range, but on the golf course.”
Harrington finished tied for 32nd on his last trip to Texas for the Shell Houston Open which has replaced the BellSouth Classic as the curtain-raiser for the Masters.
The courses are as different as chalk and cheese but that’s no big deal for the Dubliner, who is more worried about his mental game than anything else.
He said: “Obviously Sugarloaf was better preparation but basically in Houston I need to get my mental game right and my shot selection.
“As I said, it is not the type of shots we will be playing , it is just my head, that's all I have to get right.
“I just need to play more, not practice. Play more on it now and get a bit sharper with the wedges. I hit a terrible wedge yesterday on the 10th to make double.”
Early visits to Augusta, where Darren Clarke spent two days last week honing his game, are not something that appeal to Harrington.
While Phil Mickelson played 27 holes at Augusta early last week, reportedly shooting 65 before covering another nine holes in 31, Harrington sees no point in making an early visit.
He said: “I always think that the golf course changes from Monday through to Thursday anyway. So going there weeks in advance makes no sense to me.
“You can nearly overplay Augusta. You are going to have three practice rounds from Monday through to Wednesday. But it plays so different on Thursday when you get out there in competition, you hit it further and it is just a different golf course.
“I still think it is the hardest major to win because you have got to be very precise there. It is very much like that second shot on the 18th here.”