Brian KeoghComment

Harrington must get back to matchplay roots

Brian KeoghComment

Picture Eoin Clarke/

Padraig Harrington insists he will have to get back to his matchplay roots if he is avoid a first round sucker punch at the hands of Australian heavyweight Geoff Ogilvy in the $8.5m WGC - Accenture Match Play in Tucson.

But the 39-year old Dubliner also knows that even if he beats the two-time Accenture Match Play champion, it will be far from easy to emerge from the Group of Death, aka the Sam Snead bracket.

If he wins, he’s on course to face Tiger Woods or Thomas Bjorn in round two with in-form stars like Dustin Johnson, Mark Wilson, Bill Haas or Bubba Watson lying in wait.

“Its unbelievable, isn’t it, Harrington said when he assessed his draw. “You’ve got good players and then other players in great form. It’s obviously tough.

“If you were sitting down at a poker table with the eight people in my mini group, and you were looking for the sucker, I don’t see one.

“Normally, if you don’t see the sucker at the poker table, you’re it.

“Looking at the draw, there is nowhere to hide. If you win your first match, the guy you are playing against has already won a match so he must be in some form and it builds like that.

“So if you look at this quarter of death or 16th of death. I am going to have a tough week here. A long week.”

Harrington has made a disastrous start to the season following his disqualification in last month’s Abu Dhabi Championship.

He was in position to attack the leaders at the halfway stage of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and last week’s Northern Trust Open but crashed down the field on both occasions, finished tied 63rd and 55th respectively.

Believing he needs to be more aggressive in matchplay, he’s hoping he can take advantage of his short game skills and give Ogilvy a tough time today.

He said: “Geoff is a match play specialist. He is very good at just hitting it and finding it and then keeping going from there, which is a match play attitude.  He doesn’t get into it too much, he just fires away and he is aggressive.”

Given his less than stellar form in the Ryder Cup and his failure to make it past round two in this event since 2005, Harrington knows he has to recover some of the matchplay mojo that made him such a feared opponent in his amateur days.

He said: “Professional golf over 72 holes of strokeplay is all about being steady and cautious and safe and I have lost a bit of that sparkle in matchplay.

“When I got knocked out blast year, I looked back at when my opponent was in a slight bit of trouble and I started hitting to 20 feet and he’d get up ad down. I’ve got to assume more from my opponent when he is slightly off and be more aggressive myself.”

His short game prowess will be vital against a player of Ogilvy’s quality and he knows that he has to improve on his performances on the west coast to have any chance of progressing in the desert.

But as he points out, he often plays his best golf when his back is against the wall.

He explained: “I have got to be with it straight away. So that is probably a positive for me. I play my best golf when I am fearful and certainly that is how I succeeded in years gone by. When I am scared, I tend to focus a lot better.”