Pádraig Harrington insists he’s playing well enough to allow himself to remain patient with his putting as he bids to continue his strong start to the season in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
The Dubliner will defend the team title with his longstanding amateur partner JP McManus opposite Dermot Desmond and Spain’s Rafael Cabrera Bello at Spyglass Hill, one of three courses used this week along with Pebble Beach and Monterey Peninsula Country Club.
Harrington had a poor year on the greens last year but has worked diligently on his putting technique in the close season and already seen big improvements.
And while he did not putt well on the final day in the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Sunday, slipping from third to ninth following a closing 70, he’s seen enough positive signs so far that he is not tempted to start pushing any panic buttons.
“I’m always enthusiastic at the start of the year,” he said. “I’m an optimistic person. I played very well last year hitting the golf ball‑wise. I saw more of that last week, so that’s nice.
“I had putted well my first two tournaments in Europe. I putted well throughout start of the last week’s tournament; lost my way a little bit on Sunday.
“But I’m optimistic that I’ve seen some good things in my putting, and if that comes back, on top of hitting the ball well, you know, [there are] good days ahead.
“As I said last week, it’s easier to be patient when you’re playing well. I kind of feel like it’s going to happen so I don’t have to force it at the moment.”
Harrington has worked on his eyesight with a sports vision expert (SV:EYE) and on his routines with Dave Alred, who has coached some of the best rugby goalkickers in the world.
Asked how Aldred would have rated his kicking ability last week in Phoenix, when he booted American footballs into the crowd at TPC Scottsdale’s iconic 16th, he said: “He hasn’t commented yet, but I know he wouldn’t be happy. At this stage I think I could teach kicking at this stage. I didn’t land on my kicking leg, which would be a no‑no.
“I kind of was halfway between side-footed and front-footed, and for him you’ve got to kick with the quad not the abductor. I was kind of half and half. I was afraid of missing the ball so wasn’t thinking too much about my technique that stage.”
England’s Lee Westwood is teeing it up at Pebble Beach in his first PGA Tour event since emigrating to Florida with his family.
Asked about the difficulties facing ex-pats in the US, Harrington reckons time will tell if it has been a good move for the Englishman.
However, he pointed out that there is a huge cultural difference between the European and US tours in terms of what you do off the course and warned against becoming isolated.
“I have definitely seen Europeans come across individually, and because the culture is different it’s hard to break out. As I said, the last place you want to spend any time on tour is in your hotel room. That’s sticking a nail in your coffin. You’ll overanalyse your game when you’re there. You have to get out and about and break the barriers.”
Then, in a moment of levity that will go down like a lead balloon with hotel operators all over Europe, he said: “But in Europe, the difference would be all the players stay at the same hotel; we share cars to and from the golf course; when you come back to your hotel, there is always guys you want to catch up with. And if you don’t know people, you have to ask where there is a decent restaurant.
“You know, you’re not going to have room service in a European hotel. I shouldn’t have said that, should I? (Laughter)…
“If you’re in the Southern Europe you’re used to going to dinner at 10:30 at night, so it’s just a different culture. For those guys it’s always been hard for them. But I’m sure it’s not a big change for Lee.
“I asked him this week, and probably the most pertinent question is was his wife and kids enjoying it.
He said they were. That’s going to decide a lot more about where Lee is living. You better believe it. It’s much more to do with your family than anything else.”