Harrington: "I have issues. And my issues have issues!"

Pádraig Harrington, wearing a stability gadget on his left foot, hits balls at Muirfield earlier this week. Picture Stuart Adams www.golftourimages.comPadraig Harrington is hoping his tough guy mentality will pay off and give him a chance of winning his third Claret Jug this week.

But the jokes that not only does he have mental “issues,” his “issues have issues” and that’s a major headache as he battles the demons in his head as well as Muirfield’s fearsome rough.

Criticised for thinking too much, he admits that he hasn’t been able to take his practice form into competition because he’s simply trying too hard to live up to his own high expectations.

Joking, Harrington said: “I have issues. And my issues have issues. And they are all based on expectation.

“When you play well in practice, you’ve certain expectations and I have to deal with those.

“I’m certainly not doing a good job on that at the moment. That will be where my attention is focussed this week, on my attitude.

“I’ll give you a very quick example. You can walk off the golf course feeling like you’ve shot 70 and you’ve signed for 68. That’s a person in form.

“A personal out of form is the guy who feels like he’s shot 70 and he’s signed for 72.

“Both guys thought they shot 70 but the guy who’s having a good run got 68 and the guy who’s having a bad run got 72.

“A guy who’s playing great and confident, sees an average shot as the cousin of a good shot. A guy playing badly sees the average shot as the first cousin of a bad shot.

“I would have such expectations that when I hit an average shot I feel really disappointed. Yet it’s only an average shot, most of your golf shots are average.

“Because I can do everything perfect for a limited time on the range, I’m getting very down on myself when I’m less than perfect on the golf course and that’s where we are at.

“The more you work on it the harder it makes it because you’ve more expectations because you’ve gone and won a Major or Majors.”

Despite going five years without a win on the big tours and changing to the belly putter out of desperation, the Dubliner reckons Muirfield is right up his street because it promises to be the hardest Open venue for years.

A winner at Carnoustie - the course they call Car-Nasty - in 2007 and again at testing Royal Birkdale in 2008,  he’s praying that fast running Muirfield drives his rivals up the wall.

Harrington said: “Thankfully I prefer the tough golf courses because if I didn’t, I’d be going up the wall here and I’d be getting very stressed out because this is really tough.

“I think the R&A are loving this. It’s exactly what they wanted, apart from perhaps a little more wind for the tournament.

“They really like a firm, fast golf course. It’s going to play like a traditional links and with the rough being up, it adds to the drama.”

Harrington missed out on the play-off for the 2002 Open at Muirfield by just one shot when he played what he says was “the best golf of my life” but holed nothing and bogeyed the 72nd hole.

He said: “I putted like a womble that week and I’m going to have to putt well here.

“But the first challenge is staying out of that rough because the fairways very firm and we haven’t seen an Open course as tough as this in a while.

“Okay, it’s not going to be too blowy. But the rough, if you are a little bit astray, you are going to struggle to get back in the fairway.

“There is a lot of good in my game at the moment but I could do will a little bit of momentum.

“I am not quite creating things, making things happen, so hopefully I get the head around things this week and get a good positive attitude and move forward.”

Whatever about his mental struggles, Harrington has thought deeply about the set up of his bag this week and added a driving iron to his armoury.

“I normally don’t carry anything lower than a five-iron but I’ve taken out a wedge and a hybrid and put in a three-iron which has a two-iron loft and a one-iron shaft. It’s a Wilson Ci. It will go 270 or 280 yards downwind and the same distance as a three-wood would go into the wind in total distance but obviously not in carry.

“I’m carry a four wood, not a three wood, and a five-wood.”