Padraig Harrington is aiming to rediscover his “spark” this week when he competes in the KLM Open for the first time in 11 years, writes the European Tour.
A frustrating season has yielded just two top ten finishes on The European Tour so far, but the three-time Major winner is hoping to turn the corner at Kennemer Golf and Country Club, where Waterford Castle’s Kevin Phelan will make his professional debut following his amateur swansong in last weekend’s Walker Cup.
The 42 year old, whose last European Tour victory came at the 2008 US PGA Championship, believes he is close to finding his best form, but admits he needs to find a way of resurrecting the on-course intensity for which he became famed during his halcyon days.
Harrington, who played alongside the former Manchester United and Holland goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar in the Pro-Am, said: “I’ve been hitting the ball well in practice, just not putting it together out on the course.
“I hit the ball well on the range and feel quite comfortable about my game, but then don’t live up to expectations when I’ve got a card in my hand.
“Whenever I’ve played my best golf in the past, I’ve generally felt quite fearful about the state of my game. I tended to get quite tense and focused and as a result I played much better, but because there’s no fear at the moment, I’m not bringing much of a spark out onto the course.
“It’s just something I’m going to have to manage to figure out, but I’m definitely working at it – I never stop working at this game.”
The links style of Harry Colt’s classic should suit the two-time Open Champion down to the ground, but the former Ryder Cup star admits recent heavy rain has rendered the course a very different beast to how it is usually played.
Harrington said: “It’ll be a slightly different challenge this week with it playing softer after all the rain they’ve had here, so controlling your ball flight will be key.
“A few times in practice I pitched the ball on the front third of the green, and it spun back 20 or 30 yards off the green. It’s okay to do that in practice, but you don’t want to be doing it during the tournament. Obviously if the greens were firmer that wouldn’t be a problem, but like any great golf course, the type of test is dependent on the conditions.
“The course is still fantastic, I couldn’t say anything bad about it; it’s as good a course as you’ll ever see. It’s great to play the older courses, and this one proves that over time, courses can mature into real beauties.”
Unlike course debutant Harrington, Nicolas Colsaerts has played at Kennemer on numerous previous occasions, after making his debut in the KLM Open as a 16 year old amateur.
Having starred in last year’s Ryder Cup, life for Colsaerts has rather changed since he first competed as a fresh-faced teenager, but the affable Belgian still retains a boyish enthusiasm about teeing up in a place he has come to call home.
He said: “Back in the day there was a junior tournament where the winner was given the chance to compete in the Dutch Open, and I was lucky enough to win it a couple of times. This is probably the closest tournament to home for me, so it’s always been special for me. I’ve got to know a lot of people here over the years, and it’s always great to support the tournament.
“We’ve had a pretty good summer for a change, so the greenkeeping staff have been able to make the most of it. A few of the gullies might be a bit damp after the downpour we had on Monday and Tuesday, but other than that the course is in great shape. The greens are rolling very nicely, and the fairways are very tight which is what you would expect of a links course. It’s set up for a great week.”
Colsaerts will tee up in the company of Finland’s Mikko Ilonen and England’s Ross Fisher, who captured his maiden European Tour title at the KLM Open in 2007.