No surrender from Harrington: "I'm going to stay confident... if that means I've got to create a lie or tell myself a lie, I'll go on with it"

No surrender from Harrington: "I'm going to stay confident... if that means I've got to create a lie or tell myself a lie, I'll go on with it"

Pádraig Harrington must remain positive, no matter what. Picture:

Pádraig Harrington has often been accused of over-thinking but when it comes to mental games and the power of positive thinking, the man is a master.

As he prepares to chase a second Irish Open title at Fota Island tomorrow, paired with Rory McIlroy and Stephen Gallacher in a marquee early morning group that will have Fota Island hopping from the word go, he remains as steadfastly determined as ever to emerge from his struggles and return to the big time. He’s even prepared to lie to himself, if that’s what it takes.

The news that the Open Championship will be played at Royal Portrush as soon as 2019 does not give Harrington any more motivation to remain competitive and add to his major haul. Still, he’s clearly delighted.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “The Open coming to Ireland. And I'm sure when it does come, it will be one of the greatest Opens ever. The people that will turn out and the atmosphere will be second to none. Only St. Andrews maybe could surpass it because it's the Home of Golf.”

Harrington always insisted that he wanted to win majors - plural - and not just one major. And while he achieved that goal by winning two Claret Jugs and a US PGA shortly after his breakthrough Irish Open win at Adare Manor in 2007, he remains as determined as ever to add to that haul.

Even though he has fallen from third in the world five years ago to 233rd today, he insists that he cannot afford to contemplate the slippery slope to burn out and the inevitable move into seniors golf.

Pádraig Harrington. Picture:

While pal Paul McGinley is five years older and admits he’s in his “twilight years”, 42-year old Harrington knows that once he starts thinking that way, he will start playing that way in earnest.

“I'm trying not to think about it or put myself in it,” he said of the ageing process.  “I suppose it's one of those traps, the more you analyse and think about it, the more you're going to be there.

“I just play golf and just get on with it because I really, really love playing golf. And If I wasn't playing a tournament here, I'd be out playing golf.

“So I will keep playing away because I believe the performances are there and I believe I can do the job going forward.

“It's up to you guys to weigh each side of that story, but I'm going to stay confident and believe it's going to turn around with more big wins again.

“That's where I've got to be. Even if that means I've got to create a lie or tell myself a lie, I'll go on with it.  I'm not going to go down the other road.”

Ryder Cup skipper McGinley is 47 and believes it’s inevitable that players fade away when they hit their late 40s, explaining: “Not many golfers play their best golf at 47 years of age, and looks like I'm no different.  That's just what happens — time catches up and you move on.” 

The decline in his putting has clearly held Harrington back in recent years but he refuses to admit that it’s almost a law of professional golf that as a player approaches his mid-40s, his putting declines due to wear and tear on the nerve ends.

I’m sure when it does come, it will be one of the greatest Opens ever.
— Pádraig Harrington on the return of Royal Portrush to the Open rota

“I honestly believe the answer is no,” he said before delivering the killer line. “And if the answer was yes, I'd still tell you no!”

Asked where he saw himself in five years’ time, when the Open comes to Northern Ireland, he said: "I don’t know. I’m fitter and stronger than I've ever been at the moment.  You'll have to wait and see when it comes.

“I'll be gearing up for the Senior Tour at 47, I don't know. We’ll have to see how I play the next couple years but I feel fit and strong

“Certainly players burn out. But it’s not a physical thing and I've maintained everything I need to maintain to compete.  

“If I thought I was going to be burned out at 47, well be it would probably happen at 46 or 45. It would come a bit quicker.  I'll try to delay that thought and maybe I'll last till I'm 47 or 48, who knows.”

Having contended for victory in the Byron Nelson Championship last month before fading to 22nd with a  final round 74, Harrington is happy at least that his game is close. Figuring out how to string four good rounds together is the next step.

“I’ve had a few decent rounds there, good rounds, but I’m not finishing out tournaments,” he said. “I'd rather be in a position of trying to figure out why I played well and didn't play well rather than trying to find my game.

“So I'm not trying to find my game. I'm trying to sustain it and figure out why I haven't played as well coming down the end road. As I said, it's a lot better when you're trying to sustain something than actually trying to find it in the first place.”

The only end road in Harrington’s mind is the finishing stretch at Fota Island on Sunday. Everything else is pie in the sky.