By Brian Keogh
Injured Padraig Harrington is confident he will tee it up in the Open - but how long he can survive remains a mystery.
The defending champion confessed that the fear factor will be huge when he tangles with Royal Birkdale’s heavy rough after suffering a massive injury scare on Saturday night.
After watching Tiger Woods win the US Open on one leg, the question is: Can Harrington retain the Open with one hand?
The Dubliner tweaked his right wrist bashing an impact bag with a driver in a late night practice session and couldn’t pick up a club for two days as a result.
And while he revealed that he would have pulled out of any regular event, he is a nervous wreck about the prospect of doing further damage to his wrist in Birkdale's heavy rough.
After a nine-hole test run, Harrington revealed: “I will be fearful of hitting my first shot out of the rough. I was worried hitting my first couple of drives today or any shot with a divot.
“Even on bunker shots I was anxious. But I will definitely try and hit one shot out of the rough in practice tomorrow because I know I can’t escape being in the rough for 72 holes.
“I’ll definitely hit one out of the rough tomorrow, just to convince myself that I can. As long as it stays dry, the rough is not too bad.
“I’m just a little bit wary that it is on the edge and I don’t want to do anything more to it.
Ireland’s first major winner for 60 years was treated by his chiropractor Dr Dale Richardson yesterday before testing his injury in a practice round with Damien McGrane and American Woody Austin.
But he walked in after nine holes, revealing that he still felt twinges and a tingling sensation as he pushed his tee into the ground.
As a precaution, he didn’t dare hit a shot out of the rough, opting instead to kick the ball back out onto the fairway when he sprayed it into trouble in heavy winds.
After heading in for a second physio session with Richardson, he was ordered to take the afternoon off and opted to walk the back nine instead of hitting more shots.
Aussie born Richardson felt that Harrington had weakened the injury - a first degree strain of the pronator quadratus - during his nine-hole session and ordered him to rest it until today.
Harrington added: “It was okay for nine holes but just felt a bit fuzzy, a bit tingly inside. I don’t want to push it so am going to go walk nine holes and just hit a few chips and putts instead of full shots.
“I am happy with the fact that I got through nine holes. I just have to keep going with the physio treatment and hopefully I can play the back nine tomorrow or maybe even 18.
“Probably the biggest worry now is if I hit it in the rough doing something to it during the tournament and flare it up again. That would give me a bit of a problem. But I’m much happier now than I was this morning.
“If it wasn’t the Open I wouldn’t be here. I’d have pulled out on Sunday. . It is definitely an injury that you wouldn’t risk it. But it as it is Open week, you make the effort. The only long term risk is obviously what caused it.
“Dale is very blasé about it. He’s quite happy he can get a job done on it so long as I don’t overdo it or don’t do anything to it between now and then.
“I’ll definitely be teeing it up. The only risk would be doing more damage at some stage during the tournament, that would certainly be an issue, but at the moment I’m delighted I got to play nine holes and it was pain free.”
Harrington iced his injury as he walked around the back nine and explained that he is likely to wear strapping when he tees it up with Retief Goosen and Justin Leonard tomorrow.
Currently taking anti-inflammatories, he added: “At the moment, I don’t want to strap it because I might be doing damage to it. I want to know what it felt like, so if I felt anything I would stop. I probably will test it in he tournament because it is more likely if I felt pain I would try to get through it.
“When I went on the golf course I was fine, happy enough to swing away at it. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t be paying any attention to it out the course only I am aware of it and have had it checked and know it has weakened.”
Harrington is not exactly sure what caused the original weakness in his wrist but he has ruled out his tangles with the rough in last Saturday’s successful Irish PGA defence at The European Club.
He drove home from the Co Wicklow venue on Saturday evening, hit balls for two hours and then took out his driver and ironically, whacked an impact bag in an exercise that is designed to strengthen the resistance in his wrists.
He said: “Obviously that is meant to build up your wrist but I did something to destabalise it and then the exercise didn't do it any good.
“I didn't know there was something wrong. Normally it wouldn't have posed any problem to me. I have been hitting impact bags for a long number of years to strengthen up the wrist. “Henry Cotton used to hit a tyre and this is not as heavy. I had a tyre in my back yard for years.”
As for the golf course, Harrington was happy with his first look at the Open track since he played his last practice round here eight weeks ago.
He said: “The course is lovely. The wind is really having a big effect out there. It really suits me. The wind is really moving the ball around a lot.”