Team Harrington prepares Major strategy for 2009

Padraig Harrington will be under doctors’ orders this week as he prepares his Major Championship masterplan for 2009.

The Dubliner, 37, will sit down with his team of medical and technical gurus in Los Angeles for a brainstorming session that he hopes will give him an edge over rivals like Tiger Woods in his bid to complete the so-called "Paddy Slam".

And Dr Liam Hennessy, the expert in sports physiology who oversees Harrington’s physical preparation, is hoping that they can come up with some new ideas that will give Ireland’s triple Major winner an advantage over the competition when he cranks up the machine in the New Year.

Set to join Harrington, biomechanist Dr Paul Hurrion and chiropractic Dr Dale Richardson in LA tomorrow, Hennessy said: “We always like to think we can come up with something that can help Padraig gain another couple of percentage points and so we are shaping that up.

“But it is not something that we can make public. After all, we are trying to get an edge on the competition so we will be playing our cards close to our chest.”

After winning the Open and the US PGA this summer, world No 4 Harrington officially wrapped up his season when he finished second in the Barclays Singapore Open two weeks ago.

And while he won’t hit another ball in competition until he tees it up in the Abu Dhabi Championship in six weeks’ time, Harrington will use his winter break to get ready mentally and physically for 2009 and his bid to win his third Major on the trot at Augusta in April.

Harrington said: "The one thing I want to consciously absorb during the winter break is that there are only three other players now, apart from Tiger, who have won three or more Majors. Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson are guys who I watched as an amateur and I would have put them on a pedestal and seen them as my heroes.

"I'm in their group now and it's hard to get my head around that. I realise I have to get my head around it because it's one way of me progressing. It's definitely another if I can embrace the confidence that statement deserves in itself. "

Hennessy has spent 11 years helping Harrington perfect a sophisticated training regime that is designed to give him more power and speed.

But he is just as concerned about improving the Dubliner’s ability to recover quickly from the stress of competition and prepare for the next step towards golfing greatness.

Hennessy explained: “Padraig would be significantly more powerful that he was two years ago. But anyone can become stronger by going to the gym - the trick is to channel everything in to his golf.”

Harrington admits that he would be lost without Hennessy, explaining: “From a physical point of view, Liam has given me the confidence to read my own body, to read how I feel.

"We're brought up with the thought that the harder you work the better it is but when it comes to fitness and coaching I've learned you have to work smarter and better instead of just hard.

"You can't keep throwing yourself into it, which is what my instinct would have been if I didn't have Liam holding me back.”

Harrington wears a compression suit on planes to reduce jet-lag and has even installed his own cryogenic chamber at his Dublin home - cooled to minus 110C - to help him recover quickly from injury or intensive training.

But that is only a tiny element of a training regime that is designed to allow him to get the maximum out of his golf.

Hennessy added: “Padraig will look at everything and he uses cryotherapy, whole body vibration, strength training, power training, stability training, functional training, speed training as part and parcel of his routine.

“He is totally dedicated to what he is doing and the training he does is not in the least bit wearing for him. Padraig looks forward to it all the time because he knows it is part of the base that allows him to perform.

“The whole idea is that there is a plan in place and the biggest challenge for top golfers is recovery.

“Look at Tiger, who plays far fewer tournaments a year that the other top players. The reason he plays so little is so he can recover and get ready for the next event.”

Harrington will head to South Africa at Chirstmas to continue work on a subtle swing change designed to give him even more control over the ball.

After that the plan is to hit the golfing heights in 2009 and bid to add the Masters and the US Open to his CV.

Only five golfers have won all four of golf's modern Majors - Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Woods. Listening to doctors’ orders is the next step on that road.