Forty-four pounds. In terms of sheer, physical weight the Wannamaker Trophy awarded to the US PGA champion is the heaviest trophy in major championship golf.
“You cannot believe how heavy it is,” Padraig Harrington said in Akron yesterday, where he is using for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational as a warm up for next week’s title defence at Hazeltine National in Minnesota. “It's phenomenal how heavy the trophy is.”
Some may say that the weight of expectation created by Harrington’s third major championship victory at Oakland Hills last year has been a tremendous burden for the Dubliner. It’s been suggested that he has taken refuge on the practice ground this year in a subconscious attempt to relieve the pressure.
Harrington treats such questions seriously and as launched into a detailed explanation of his swing changes for the umpteenth time over the past eight months, he used a touch of humour to describe the mindset that compels a three-time major winner to try and get better.
“I've always been a person that tries to improve at all costs,” Harrington told a news conference. “I said it the other day ... if somebody told me I had to go to a desert island for the next two years and I would improve my game, the hard part about that would be telling my wife. Because that is what I would do. That's always been my makeup.
“If I thought that was the way to improve my game, that's what I would be doing. And the hard part for my wife would be telling the kids that we're moving. (Laughter). She'd be kicking me out the door.”
This time last year, Harrington was riding a wave of emotion after successfully defending the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale. A week later he was on an even greater high when he hoisted the massive Wannamaker Trophy aloft at Oakland Hills.
In the intervening 12 months he has missed 10 cuts and slithered from third in the world to 17th. As a result, he is 142nd in the FedEx Cup rankings and struggling to make the top 125 who will qualify for the first play-off event (The Barclays) in three weeks’ time.
However, he insisted that the distraction of an old neck injury that inflamed on Monday will not be an issue when he tees it up with Scott Verplank and Soren Hansen on the 10th hole at Firestone’s South Course on Thursday.
In terms of results, the past 12 months have been the poorest of Harrington’s 14-year professional career. Yet the work he has done on his swing to improve his ball-striking has been well worth all the pain and Harrington declared that he is feeling positive about his game as he prepares to defend his US PGA title.
“Oh, very positive,” he said. “It's been an interesting year ... I definitely found what I was looking for, and in that process I probably learned a lot more about my game than I ever could have wished to have learned.
“I've been two and a half or three years trying to sort out the problem. I haven't done very well at sorting it out. But over the last eight months I definitely got to the bottom of it, and I'm happy about that.”
If Harrington did take refuge on the practice ground, it was probably a subconscious thing. In previous seasons he has juggled the tinkering with a serious focus on results but winning three majors in the space of 14 months gave him time to work on his game without the tyranny of the scorecard. Call it a comfort zone.
“I've obviously taken my improvement this year to the extreme,” he explained. “The previous two years I was still trying to make the same improvement, but in a different sort of manner. Obviously winning three majors gave me the incentive, gave me a bit of leeway that I said, right, it's time to make the change, actually get right into it and figure it out rather than before I was trying to do two things at once, play golf and change. In the last eight months I've been more focused on the change than anything.
“I've tended to go from winning when I needed to win to easing off and changing things to having a bit of a lull and then be pushed back into focusing on winning again. At different points in my career the focus has not been on winning, it's been on improving my game. You tend to win when you're focused on winning and you tend to improve your game when you're focused on improving your game.”
Given his position in the world rankings and the FedEx Cup standings, Harrington has no doubt where his focus lies right now.
“Getting a few wins," he said. "That’s where the focus is now."