Hailed as the man who inspired the current European golfing resurgence with his major wins, Padraig Harrington will make a pit stop at the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend as he ponders the biggest challenge of his career.
Set to fall out of the world’s top 50 for the first time since March 2000, the 39-year old Dubliner can’t bear to be out of action when he should be honing his game and battling to remain relevant as a major player.
Confessing that he’s “absolutely gutted” that injury has forced him to skip the European Tour’s flagship BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, Harrington said: “It’s so hard, especially when I was starting to feel good at the weekend.
“I was thinking I might have pulled out a bit early, but it’s gone from acute pain to persistent niggling pain and it seems the physios know a thing or two.”
Harrington was at nearby Sunningdale yesterday in his role as a Royal and Ancient Club ambassador for a clinic with schoolchildren brought together by the Golf Foundation charity.
He also attended the European Tour’s awards dinner at a Heathrow hotel last night, but then it was off to Monte Carlo.
“I’ve never been to a Grand Prix, but I can’t sit at home watching another tournament and I’m basically going to have a week’s holiday to get me away from the temptation of practising.”
He expects to start that again in the middle of next week on a trip to Sandwich, venue for this July’s Open Championship, while his next tournament is in Memphis on June 9-12, a week before the US Open.
By then he could be outside the world’s top 50 and while he insists that it’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together rather than a sinister loss of form, his current injury will hardly help his cause as he prepares for the second major of the season.
Since winning the Open and the US PGA in 2008, Harrington has played nine majors with a share of 10th in the 2009 US PGA his best finish.
He’s missed the cut in five of them, including four of the last five, which is a trend he’ll be keen to buck at Congressional from June 16-19.
His contribution to the European cause certainly hasn’t been forgotten by the new European elite with former world No 1 Martin Kaymer praising Harrington as the man who made it all possible.
“I think why the Europeans became so successful started with Harrington,” said Kaymer, currently world No 3. “When he started winning majors that gave myself and a lot of Europeans belief. It gives you motivation. It gives you the belief that it’s not always about Tiger Woods.”
Harrington’s wins were followed by major victories for Graeme McDowell in the US Open, Kaymer’s US PGA victory and major challenges in the last three grand slams by Rory McIlroy.
“When Graeme won the US Open, the next major Rory all of a sudden was up there,” Kaymer said. “He said Graeme showed him a little bit that he can do it.”