PGA win colossal for Rory but Harrington desperate for his own momentum shift

Pádraig Harrington is looking for some momentum and a few good breaks. Picture Stuart Adams

Pádraig Harrington is desperate to clamber aboard the momentum train alongside Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry, confessing he was “devastated” to miss out on qualification for the US Open knowing he'd already been denied a special exemption by the USGA.

The three-time major winning legend has teamed up with another Irish icon in Dunnes Stores to launch his exclusive range of golf clothing.

But while he's delighted with the clothes, he's not ready to become a fashion icon just yet.

It's more majors he wants and he knows he needs the kind of momentum boost that McIlroy and Lowry got by finishing first and second in BMW PGA if he's to challenge for a fourth Major win in The Open at Hoylake in July.

Hugely impressed by the maturity McIlroy displayed in breaking off his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki before it was too late, the Dubliner believes the Holywood star is now ready to go on a run of sizzling summer form, starting this week [he was proved correct] and moving into the US Open.

The same goes for Lowry, who Harrington reckons can now “weather any storm” and “win at the highest level” after putting his early season slump behind him at Wentworth before topping the US Open qualifiers on Monday

“With what's happened to Rory off the golf course, winning is the best antidote for him to be able to keep going forward and concentrate on what he is doing," Harrington said as he sat in the shop window at Dunnes Stores in Dublin's George's Street.

Rory McIlroy. Picture Stuart Adams

“Last week was a big stepping stone for him. For another player it might be a peak but not for Rory. When he is on a good run on and on form he can win three events in four weeks, we’ve seen him do it. When he’s on a bad run, he’s average. 

“Winning the PGA is a colossal step for him and he’ll probably have a great season now. Rory will only play better for his win, substantially better. He is somebody who loves momentum.

"He has always played well with confidence and when he gets his confidence his game is second to none. 

"Another person could win the PGA and that would nearly be the stop point, as in ‘I have won a tournament and it is great.’ To Rory is it just  a step to him getting to the US Open.”

Twelve months ago, Harrington and Paul McGinley were urging a struggling McIlroy to accept that he was always going to be a streaky player. But while he is seeing a more mature, more consistent McIlroy, Harrington hasn’t changed his opinion.

"What Paul McGinley is saying and what I am saying is that the more he accepts it, the easier it will be on him." Harrington said. “He will have periods where it is not going quite right and if he relaxes in those periods the good times will come around a lot quicker.

"It will be interesting to see how the PGA really works for him. I  can’t see him not competing this week in the States and I can’t see him not competing in the US Open.”

Shane Lowry at Wentworth. Picture Stuart Adams

As for Lowry, Harrington sees Sunday’s runner up finish as a huge boost to the Offaly star after a tough start to the year.

“Shane is a really good player,” he said. “I really like the fact he had a bad run and has come back out strong. You can’t believe what confidence boost that will give him for the future. He really is a player who is capable of winning at the very highest level.

“What he did at Wentworth, I think it will serve him well in the future and show him that he can weather the storm. If things don’t look good for a few weeks he knows he can come back and this game is very much based on self-confidence and that will do for a huge boost for him.”

Harrington failed to qualify for the US Open for the first time since 1999, having being told by the USGA that he was not going to get one of their special exemptions for Pinehurst No 2.

"The invite didn't come through and that's the reality of golf,” he said. “I’m not upset about this because it's my fault I didn't qualify.”

It was failing to qualify that hurt Harrington, who sees signs that his game is close. As Lowry and McIlroy showed, one good week can change everything.

“I am devastated about missing the US Open because two years ago I had a chance to win it. I needed a birdie at the last two win it with a wedge in my hand. Hole it and I win the tournament.

“I am gutted to miss out on it. I still have two majors in the summer and that’s what it’s all about. The key for me is to build momentum before The Open.

"There are four events there before Hoylake — Memphis, the Irish Open, the French Open and the Scottish Open — and they are four events that I like. That’s when I have to build momentum because you are unlikely to win a major out of the blue.

"Yes and it is about momentum. I believe so. I see quite a change in my putting and that's what let me down, and that feeds in to the rest of my game.

"So yeah, things are changing and I'm interested to see how the summer goes, but I'm always optimistic, that's who I am. But I am looking forward to the summer. I'm looking forward to playing.

"And I'm trying to get that sort of attitude that I'm out there really enjoying it, wanting something to happen and try to increase that... I know Jim Furyk is on this sort of thing, try to make it a little more fun, more enjoyable than work-like, that’s where i am at at the moment because I don’t see any great issues with game it is more about my mental side, trying to figure out a good balance to get me as sharp as I could.

"I could see last Monday I didn’t play as sharp as I could. Fatigue was a massive element of it so  I just have to figure it out and get the right balance so I am sharp mentally on the golf course."