The year provided some obvious highs for Irish golfers with Rory McIlroy’s US Open coronation, so soon after his Augusta agony, swiftly followed by Darren Clarke’s long-awaited major breakthrough in The Open. But there was plenty more to keep Irish golf fans reading in 2011 and not all of it was on such an epic scale.
It started with Padraig Harrington making wholesale changes to his game after the most frustrating season of his career. Eight months later he sacked Bob Torrance.
The other big break ups of the year were made by McIlroy, who left his childhood sweetheart for a tennis player and then dumped manager Chubby Chandler, breaking the news in an airport lounge.
But there was so much more. We had Lee Westwood’s pointed comments about McIlroy’s abiltiy to deal with pressure and McIlroy’s equally harsh views on ex-pro turned commentator Jay Townsend, who he described as a “failed golfer” for daring to criticise his course management and his caddie.
We had Clarke’s despair two days before The Open and his otherworldly, morning-after-the-night-before press conference the following Monday. For now, let’s start with the build up to the first major of the season on both sides of the pond.
“When he stops working on it, he’ll have stopped playing.”
Caddie Ronan Flood on his boss Padraig Harrington
“It is not age, it is how long you are doing it for, before you burn out. Burn out… I have only been doing it for 14 years. I will be on the seniors tour and we will have this conversation again. You’ll say, ‘You’re 69 this year and you have changed your whole swing again’. You should take out the 2008 interview or the 2007 and rehash the same interview. Just change the dates.”
Padraig Harrington on making more than 20 changes to his swing, set up and routines over the winter.
“I am closer to world No 1 now than I was when I was world No 3.”
World No 26 Padraig Harrington on being 5.51 points behind No 1 Lee Westwood. He is now 85th and 8.29 points behind the new world No 1, Luke Donald. Ironically, he is still nearer to the world No 1 now than he was to Woods in August 2008 (10.50 behind).
“It seems harsh - it feels harsh.”
Padraig Harrington after being disqualified for signing for a wrong score in Abh Dhabi. He inadvertently nudged his ball a fraction of a centimetre closer when replacing it on the green and was reported by a TV viewer. The rule was subsequently changed.
“For everyone who is interested, the reason I’m not playing TPC this year is because I’ve never thought the golf course has set up that well for me. Hence 2 missed cuts in 2 years. I have no sort of vendetta against Tim Finchem or the PGA Tour, I love playing in the US and have always found the people very welcoming.”
Rory McIlroy tweets about not being at war with the PGA Tour after some earlier Twitter banter with Lee Westwood backfired. In case you hadn’t guessed, it was about their decision to skip The Players.
“There were positives. But I still feel I could have done better. I’ll be working harder than ever this year, I want to fulfill the potential I think I have. While I want to win tournaments and WGCs, it is the majors that define your career. Even though I’ve only won twice as a pro, I feel like I have the game to win a major title.”
Rory McIlroy could have won two majors in 2010. No wonder he was feeling good about 2011.
“A player may obtain distance information by using a device that measures distance only…”
The GUI approves the laser for all competitions, including championships.
“You look at the draw, it’s like guys sitting down at a poker table looking for the sucker. I don’t see one. Normally, if you don’t see the sucker at the poker table, you’re it.”
Harrington on being drawn in the ‘Group of Death’ at the WGC-Accenture Match Play. He needn’t have worried. He lost 4 & 3 to two-time champion Geoff Ogilvy in the first round.
“I don’t care what anyone says about the short game being the most important. It’s not. The long game puts you in position to have putts to win tournaments. Guys say you have to have short game to win tournaments and it is not the case. Not at all.”
Rory McIlroy in Tucson, where he suffered an 8 and 7 hammering at the hands of Ben Crane in round two. The American holed putts from all over Arizona.
“Warren Buffett calls his plane ‘The Great Unjustifiable’ and I don’t think I will be able to justify it either.”
Padraig Harrington bought a second hand jet at the end of 2010 and was not keen to talk about it. This is what he said about buying his own plane 18 months earlier.
“You are always looking to improve and you can’t really bash him for doing that.”
WGC-Accenture Match Play champion and future world No 1 Luke Donald on Padraig Harrington’s swing changes.
“It’s not that he’s playing badly. He’s simply playing badly by Tiger’s standards. He’s playing like an ordinary golfer. People expect more of him because of what he has achieved.”
Rory McIlroy’s take on Tiger Woods.
“That’s the answer that a 21-year old would give. A 37-year old is a little wiser.”
Lee Westwood on Rory McIlroy describing Tiger as “ordinary golfer” these days.
“I agree with Rory. In fact, it was me who told him so in the first place, when we had lunch last year.”
No, not Tiger. Jack Nicklaus on McIlroy’s belief that the long game is far more important than the short game.
“My frustration levels are not as good as they have been in the past because maybe I am putting a little extra pressure on myself.”
Graeme McDowell confesses that being a major winner has changed his mental state.
“It’s pretty tough not to have a giggle. We all hit bad shots. Hit a couple of those in my time. You know Tiger actually hit two tee shots today, I would say combined didn’t go further than 200 yards.”
Graeme McDowell on Tiger’s frailties off the tee at Doral.
“Golf and I are in a love hate relationship at the minute. Mostly hate today. More important things going on in the world anyway. #Japan.”
A frustrated Rory McIlroy after finishing “only” tenth in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.
“Reports that I have bought a Bugatti Veyron are completely untrue! Where do they come up with this stuff!?”
McIlroy was also frustrated by reports that he had bought the fastest road car in the world for €1.43m. He later described the story as “total bollocks”.
“It’s not vital to getting the job but it is certainly something that will work in my favour… But I admit I don’t look at the world rankings. I don’t want to depress myself.”
Paul McGinley on the importance of finding some form again if he’s to get the Ryder Cup captaincy in 2014.
“I’m in the prime of my playing career. I believe I’m going to play my best golf going forward — I absolutely think that the best is yet to come… I could sit back and look back and maybe I will in time and say - ‘That was great, I won x amount of Majors’. But that’s not me at the moment.”
Padraig Harrington at the opening of the “Harrington Room” at Stackstown Golf Club.
“I really have to get my focus back a little bit, and focus on what I am doing as opposed to all the other crap around me right now.”
Graeme McDowell after opening with an 80 in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
“I sense that Rory is playing with a lot of pressure on himself and he needs to find a way of taking that pressure off. A lot of it is going to come from experience.”
Paul McGinley expresses his concern for Rory McIlroy after spotting some telltale signs of tension in the youngster’s demeanour.