'Obsessive' Harrington hungrier than ever

By Brian Keogh

Padraig Harrington admits that he has become even more of a "range-aholic" since he won The Open.

As he prepared to kick-off his bid for more majors in 2008 with an early season appearance in the Abu Dhabi Championship, the Dubliner revealed that he is now more "obsessive" than ever about his gruelling practice routine.

Ranked ninth in the world, Harrington's admission is a clear warning to his rivals that he has no intention of resting on his laurels despite landing that heart-stopping victory at Carnoustie nearly six months ago.

Harrington said: "The most interesting thing that's happened since winning a Major is that I have reset myself back to my early years on Tour where I want to work harder and harder, and harder.

"I've actually gone back to being a bit obsessive when I get out there and I'm working and practicing, so it's like I've got to go through something all over again.

"There's a development inside me and it's nearly like I'd lost a tournament in a sense and that I'm out there trying to prove myself again.

"There's just no element of sitting back and relaxing and in fact, I've actually done the opposite and I am keener now to work on my game than I ever have been.

"You would think having won a Major that that wouldn't be the case but I've done the opposite, I'm more oppressive about getting my work done and doing the practice.

"And that has been the most surprising thing since winning The Open. It's like I've got to go prove something all over again."

Harrington, 36, is battling to make up for lost time in Abu Dhabi after a bout of illness over the Christmas period disrupted his pre-season practice schedule.

He has already pulled out of next week's Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines in San Diego, which he had hoped to use as a warm-up for June's US Open.

But he is still feeling good about his game and eager to take advantage of the pristine practice facilities in the largest of the United Arab Emirates.

Overdoing things on the range has proved to be a problem for Harrington in the past as ran out of steam in events after putting in hours of practice.

But he explained: "It's neither a good or bad thing. You have to have a good balance; that's always an area that's an issue for me in that I would have a tendency to overdo things rather than to get the balance right.

"I was getting the balance right going into the Open. It's not that I am getting the balance right now; it's just that I have to work hard and make sure that I don't overdo it."

Tied for fifth behind Paul Casey on his Abu Dhabi debut last year, Harrington was disappointed with his finish after taking a one-stoke lead into the final round.

He added: "I am definitely looking forward to getting back out on to the golf course. I still have got a little element of what I'm working on and still very much just getting my game worked through.

"But this is the ideal grounding for the year ahead. You come down here and you want to play well and win each tournament. But it you don't, these are perfect conditions for getting your practice done."

As for last year, when he faded to finish three shots behind winner Casey, Harrington is hoping for an improvement this time round.

He said: "It was actually quite disappointing last year. I just ran out of steam with nine holes to go.

"Hopefully I can go a few shots better this year and sustain it a little bit longer."

Ireland's Rory McIlroy, Damien McGrane, Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley, Peter Lawrie and Gary Murphy are hoping to beat Harrington and seven other members of the world's top 25.

World No 8 Adam Scott is the highest ranked player in the field while defending champion Casey and fellow Europeans Henrik Stenson, Luke Donald, Niclas Fasth, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood are all gunning for major Ryder Cup qualifying points.