Mental discipline the key

By Brian Keogh

Mental discipline will be fresh in Pádraig Harrington’s mind when he plays his first official practice round for the Open at Carnoustie today.

After almost blowing his fourth Irish Professional Championship victory with a 71st hole triple bogey at The European Club in Saturday, the Dubliner fed off the heat of battle to birdie the last, force a play-off and head for Scotland with the scent of victory still fresh in his nostrils.

After defeating Brendan McGovern with a par at the first extra hole, Harrington was away in a chopper less than 20 minutes later and off to Limerick for the wedding reception of JP McManus’ daughter Sue Ann.

Yet if he is to become with bride rather than a bridesmaid in the Open this week, Harrington knows he cannot afford to make the kind of mental mistakes that almost cost him dear at The European Club.

Leading by two strokes, he was distracted on the 17th tee but hit anyway, with disastrous consequences. A pulled tee shot followed by a hack into a bush and a penalty drop led to three dropped shots.

“I was two ahead and thought nothing was going wrong,” he said. “I was distracted by something on the tee but I went ahead anyway and hit a bad tee shot and I have to watch those mistakes. It really was a time to stand off it and I didn't.”

Nothing heals mental scars like a victory and Harrington will feed off the positive feelings of an Irish Open - Irish PGA double last achieved by Harry Bradshaw 60 years ago.

“There is nothing like finishing first and there is nothing like competing to win,” he said before packing his bags for a crack at 7,421-yard Carnoustie. “There is a different kind of stress in that.

“Carnoustie is going to be similar to The European Club, though a little longer. We are going to be asked to hit our driver a little bit more over there.

“But besides that the preparation was good and you are getting to judge how far the ball is going in these conditions.

“I am sure it is going to be similar temperature-wise and wind-wise next week, so I think it has been excellent build up.”