A desperate Padraig Harrington made one of the toughest decisions of his career in Killarney yesterday when he decided to part company with veteran coach Bob Torrance.
The frustrated three-time major winner, 39, has slumped from third to 64th in the world since his US PGA win three years ago, suffering his sixth missed cut of the season in this week’s Irish Open.
He admitted on Friday that he needed to make changes but ruled out sacking members of his back up team. But within 24 hours the architect of his success was out in the cold - Harrington says temporarily - and wondering what had just happened.
“I’m not thinking of changing personnel,” Harrington had said after his second round on Friday. “I’m thinking I’ve got to change something up in myself - my attitude or something along those lines.”
However, he realised on Friday night that more drastic action was called for and made the painful decision to stop working with 79-year old Torrance after 14 years and three major wins together.
“It was taken yesterday evening after I decided I needed a change,” he said as he warmed up on the range in Killarney yesterday afternoon with only his caddie Ronan Flood and close friend Noel Fox for company.
He broke the news to the venerable Scottish maestro in what must have been a painful, hour-long heart to heart yesterday morning, explaining later that they had been at loggerheads for some time.
Leaving the door open for a reunion at some stage in the future, Harrington said: “We haven’t split. We are having a break because I am getting very frustrated and until I am ready to listen to what he has to say we are having a break.”
Four years ago Harrington vowed never to leave Torrance, who turns 80 in November, insisting: “I will be wheeling him out in a wheelchair if I have to. I’ll have him out there on the range on a zimmerframe, he is that good.”
He’s consistently described him as the best coach in the world but since July 2009 they have disagreed on fundamental issues in Harrington’s swing and become increasingly entrenched in opposing camps.
Seduced by the delights of the biomechanics boffins in California, the demise of Torrance is the chronicle of a death announced. In light of his recent results and a lack of concrete progress with the myriad swing changes he has made in recent years, it was only a matter of time before one of the parties decided to call a halt.
“We are frustrated. There is no doubt about it,” Harrington said. “We always had a good argument. But at the moment there is less arguing, there is just more frustration and tension rather than getting it out there.
“I think it comes down to the fact that I want to spend more time working on my mental game and my short game that necessarily beating balls, which I would have done earlier on in my career.
“I would have hit a lot more balls and done less short game, whereas I want to do more mental stuff and short game now.”
Visibly upset, Torrance preferred not to comment as he made his way through the media centre yesterday to check the scoreboard for news of his pupils Colm Moriarty and Stephen Gallacher, replying simply: “You’d better ask Padraig.”
The pair have been like father and son for 14 years and Harrington confessed that he made the decision dispense with Torrance’s services for the time being in order to avoid ruining a great friendship.
Leaving the door open for a future reunion, Harrington said: “It is a very difficult thing but I did it more for a bond that I did for anything else because we were getting frustrated.
“If I win a tournament next week or in six weeks’ time, or in two years’ time or in 10 years’ time, my swing will be based on what Bob has taught me.
“At the end of the day that is never going to change. He has shaped and put his mark on my golf swing that will be there for the rest of my life, everything about it.
“Bob has been unbelievably important in my career and he has completely shaped it.
“But at the moment I am frustrated and I don’t know if I want him standing looking at me and when he is not standing looking at me I am not happy either.”
Harrington has worked on his swing with biomechanics experts in recent years and confessed that while he had no immediate replacement coach in mind, he will be keeping his eyes open without ruling out a return to Torrance.
“I work with the guys are the TPI and I work with Paul Hurrion at times on my biomechanics,” he said. “I have no idea where I stand. I will be certainly listening.
“This is a selfish decision at the end of day. I have certainly tried to leave the door open for myself. At the end of the day I don’t want to break the relationship with Bob but I have got to see what else is out there.”