Hat-trick bid a "shot in the dark" for Harrington

Padraig Harrington is still searching for the magic key that will unlock the door to a hat-trick of Open victories.

Despite romping to a massive seven-shot win in the Irish PGA on Saturday, Ireland's triple major winner confessed that he his bid to become a four-time champion at Turnberry this week is “a shot in the dark.”

The 7th at TurnberryThe Dubliner touched down in Turnberry by helicopter yesterday and he was keen to see the two Bobs - swing coach Bob Torrance and mental man Dr Bob Rotella - with time running out to get ready for the world's biggest major.

Asked if he was going to Turnberry with a feeling of trepidation or hope, Harrington said: “Definitely trepidation. My preparation hasn’t been right for this one so it’s a bit of a shot in the dark.

“I’m hopeful but, no, I haven’t prepared properly. I can’t expect much but I can obviously hope for it. The No 1 priority is getting your head in the right place for any major tournament and I still have got a little work to do on a few things.

“Hopefully over the next couple of days I’ll have settled on something – some key for the week and that will keep my mind occupied."

It was clear at The European Club that his swing is not quite right as he mixed the good and the bad with the downright ugly.

He worked hard on a special move in his takeway but confessed that he has tried just about everything to find his swing and still needs help.

He said: “I am clutching at straws at the moment in terms of trying to find a little hint of a key to keep myself occupied. That’s one of the many I’ve tried this week.

“I wouldn’t like to go out there and play the tournament next week thinking about it but, as I said, it might be something that needs a little bit of tinkering on. Hopefully it’s something like that.

“I actually hit the ball quite poorly this week, I probably hit the ball as well as I’ve ever hit it last week in France, spent a couple of days with Bob Torrance at the weekend and he never saw me hitting the ball as well.

“Why it disappeared on Thursday and Friday is a little bit, we’re not quite sure. Bob’s over in Scotland and it’s hard to explain over the phone. It’s gone from being as good as it could be to ‘okay, what’s going wrong’.”

Rotella’s job will be to stop Harrington thinking too much about his swing and to get him in the right frame of mind for another attack on the Open. Harrington knows full well that forgetting the swing thoughts is an absolute must if he is to become the most prolific active major winner after Tiger Woods.

Harrington explained: “I know the one way I can’t win the tournament is if I am still in the middle of a swing thought. That’s got to go. Thankfully, Bob Rotella will be there on Monday. You have the schoolteacher there to make sure I do it.”

Waterville’s David Higgins finished 21 shots behind Harrington in a share of 19th place after coming through Local Final Qualifying for the Open at Turnberry last Tuesday.

And while Harrington only earned €4,000 for his sixth Irish PGA crown, Higgins reckons the competitive practice he got at The European Club will be worth it its weight in gold at Turnberry.

Higgins said: “It’s a great place to prepare. If you miss a shot out there, you’re in deep trouble. It’s fantastic preparation, it’s all course management, hitting the ball straight.

“Pat Ruddy set the course up perfectly for us, the fairways were like carpets out there. It really was good for Padraig to be out there and for Pat to give us the course.”

Harrington would love to go for his fourth Irish PGA win in a row and his seventh overall victory next year that would leave him third in the all-time list behind 10-time champions Harry Bradshaw and Christy O’Connor Snr.

But there is some doubt that the event will go ahead at all as it would take place the same week as the JP McManus Invitational at Adare Manor.

Tiger Woods and many of the world's best will play at Adare Manor on the Monday and Tuesday before the Open at St Andrews.

Harrington would arrive in Limerick from a European Tour event - possibly the Irish or Scottish Open - and would need to rest on the Wednesday

And that leaves the Irish PGA without their main attraction for a potential Wednesday pro-am.

Irish PGA secretary Michael McCumiskey has struggled to find sponsorship for the past three years and got just €26,000 from Ladbrokes last week - a massive fall from €70,000 in 2007.

Fearing the end of the oldest Irish professional tournament if Harrington sits out the pro-am, McCumiskey said: “Without Padraig Harrington in the pro-am next year, it would be very difficult to sell this tournament.”