Pádraig Harrington’s putting might be driving him mad but he’s still bracing himself for some crazy golf in the Swiss Alps this week.
The Dubliner, 42, returns to action in the Omega European Masters today after taking two-week holiday to recover from burn out following the worst US season of his career. If past form in Crans and his current form on and around the greens are anything indication, he might have been better off at home.
But the world No 91 has pressing issues to sort out, not to mention a game of crazy golf against his caddie to win. Scaling a peak, even if it is only to enjoy the views, can only be good for his psyche.
In danger of dropping out of the world’s top 100 for the first time since 1999, hanging on by his fingertips to a place in the all important Top 60 in the Race to Dubai and returning to a course that never suited him, it does not look like a week to bet the house on Harrington winning a European Tour event for the first time for five years.
Still, the now 42 year old Dubliner couldn’t help but play the gracious guest on his return to Crans Sur Sierre for the first time in 13 years: “Clearly it is right up there as the most beautiful venue we play tournament golf at around the world. It is a beautiful place, let alone the golf course. Secondly, it always has a great atmosphere here. A bit like the tournaments I played as an amateur. The course is in the centre of the town and everyone seems to be into their golf here. You walk around the town and there are three caddie carts outside the pub because they haven’t made it home.”
Whatever about Lahinch and other Irish venues near town centres, Crans has one thing that Harrington can’t wait to test - a mini putting course that sounds a lot like crazy golf.
“I’m staying in a golf hotel and it is stunning, with stunning views,” he said. “There is a putting course in front of us and I am going to have a game against my caddie — the big match of the week!
“It really looks difficult too; there is a volcano hole and I don’t know how you play it!”
After tackling the Clown’s Mouth and the Windmill, Harrington might just be ready to handle the crazy greens at Crans Montana that were partly to blame for his decision to stay away.
He hasn’t been back since missed the cut in 2000, finding the course far too tricky — especially around the greens that Seve Ballesteros made ultra-difficult.
“You’d think it would suit me because you need good patience, but I just found it a difficult golf course,” Harrington explained. “It intimidated me that I need to shoot 20 under par or 16 under par. I preferred the option of shooting 20 or 25 under par with the flatter greens. I just found it tough.”
Whatever about his world ranking, Harrington is 60th in the Race to Dubai and right on the bubble for qualifying for the season-ending DP World Tour Championship though he has next week’s KLM Open and the Dunhill Links to look forward to in the coming week.
He’s missed five of his last six cuts and with the Ryder Cup qualifying campaign getting under way last week, he’s also keen to open his account and can’t wait to get started in Crans after firing a bogey free, six under par 65 in the pro-am.
Harrington said: “Even though I had an out of bounds and one in the water, I would settle for two more of those in the week, and two average scores.
“Two six unders, and two two unders would be pretty close. But you don’t get paid for a Wednesday.”
As for the many changes carried out to the course since his last visit, Harrington spoke like a man who has seen his share of Irish golf club design disasters.
Commenting on the par-three 13th and the changes made there, he said: “It must be the first time a committee ever did a tremendous job. It is a spectacular hole for the tournament, with the amphitheatre feeling. They did a great job. They’ve added to a couple of other holes as well, but that one in particular, I’m pleasantly surprised.”