Harrington driving for Masters glory

From Brian Keogh in Augusta

Padraig Harrington has found the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle that will help him win the Masters this week - a trusty old driver.

Struggling off the tee this year, he experimented with two high tech models for more than a week before dusting off the two-year old Titleist 905R he used to finish seventh here in 2007.

After blasting it brilliantly in practice he assessed his Masters chances with a glint in his eye, declaring: “I think I’m ready.”

At least, he’s as ready as he can be and prepared to go with what he's got.

Bidding to become the first man since Tiger Woods to win three majors in a row, he is putting well, driving well and hitting his irons with laser-like precision.

Now ‘all’ he needs now is the luck of champions and the mental resolve that has seen him win the last two Majors.

As he said abotu Irish soccer boss Giivanni Trappatoni last week: "It's better to be lucky than good."

Just 24 hours before D-Day, he's in upbeat mood and confident he can do the business.

Laying it on the line, he said: “I know from my past experiences that I can produce a game to win Major tournaments. I’ve done it three times and I know how I went about producing that golf.

“It doesn’t mean I’m going to do it this week but I know how to go about it and that’s what I’m trying to get my head around. If I can do that there’s a great chance I can be in contention.

“If I am in contention there’s a great chance I’ll win.

“If you keep preparing right you will put yourself in the position often. If you are in the position often you will win sometimes.

“That’s all I can ask of myself. There’s nothing more I can do. I can’t go out and, on demand, win this tournament or any tournament.

“I’ve got to do the right things, be disciplined, it’s paid off in the past and will pay off in the future.”

Harrington was so wayward off the tee in the Shell Houston Open that he made at least nine visits to water hazards, incurred eight penalty shots and finished just seven shots outside the play-off between Paul Casey and JB Holmes.

Applying his unique brand of logic, he said: “I do things slightly strange. If I was playing really badly, I would make sure to avoid the water hazard. If I'm playing better, I'm trying to hit it down the fairway and take on the shot.

“So maybe I was a little bit aggressive at times last week, and hopefully it's not a sign of things to come this week. Because I think I had nine-plus, at least nine in the water last week.”

His megabucks contract with Wilson does not oblige him to use their driver - giving him the freedom to change.

He took three weapons out of the course in Augusta this week - the Wilson Dd6+ he used to win three Majors, a TaylorMade R9 and the old Titleist model he used to finish seventh behind Zach Johnson in the 2007 Masters.

Explaining his problem, he said: “I’ve been adding loft to my drivers essentially to help with my technical golf swing. I won the three majors with an eight-degree driver but I used ten degrees last week, which would be significant.

“This week, it's nine and a half degrees, but with a slightly longer shaft, so it comes out higher.

“The one that looks most likely to be in the bag now is the driver I used here two years ago. So it’s an out of date model, it’s not new-fangled but it seems to be going well.

“I gave it up at the time because I put too much spin on the ball but I’ve been sorting that out with my technical swing anyway so it’s working well. I was very happy with it there today.

“I’ve used it in competition before and it’s performed and if I drove it as well in the competition as I did two years ago, I’ll be a happy man.

“I actually don't think I ever had as good a driving tournament as I did two years ago, so hopefully I can replicate that.”

Harrington looks to be peaking just in time for his bid for the third leg of the Paddy Slam, describing the last few weeks as encouraging.

Avoiding another slow Masters start would help - he’s averaged 74.5 in the opening round for the past six years.

But it’s not vital.

He said: “It is something that I have talked to Bob Rotella about. It's not that I start off cautiously — but just a little bit as if I am not quite ready. Not quite into it at that stage. I have got to play every shot on Thursday morning the same way as I play the last nine holes of the event.

“I think I am ready. A few more competitive rounds like the Sunday’s of the last two weeks would have been nice but I think I am ready.”