Padraig Harrington will play in pain in the US PGA as he fears that time is running out in his bid to add to his major haul.
The Dubliner turns 44 on August 31 and while he’s hoping he’s an exception to his theory that a player gets no more than 20 years at the top, he knows the end is approaching as he nears the end of his 20th season.
Playing on pain killing injections after suffering a suspected cartilage tear in his right knee playing tennis with his kids last month, he said: “If it wasn’t a major the week, I wouldn’t be playing.”
Asked if it was worth the risk, he added: “If I had to have a crutch and a little seat to sit on between shots I’d be playing.
“As much as I would tell you that age doesn’t make a difference, and I believe I have another ten years of being competitive, I’m running out of time rather than not.”
Ireland’s three-time major winner might struggle on the greens these days but he knows he can win another big one having ended his five-year drought in the Honda Classic and contended for the Open in the final round.
Ready to suffer for a fourth major win, he said: “I have had a cortisone injection to dull the pain, because the problem was starting to badly affect how I was walking.
“I was limping, so I had to stop limping or I was going to have other problems. So the injection was just to get rid of the pain so I could walk properly and so not do other damage.
“The downside of that is that you don’t realise how much pain you are in and you then overdo things.
“I am not a great fan of, injections hiding the pain, but I didn’t want to create some problem.
“I can’t see it affecting me playing last week, it did for a couple of holes, not to any great extent in terms of my performance, nothing more to it than that.
"It will be a long walk and I just putted for an hour and 20 minutes and it started to get sore at the end.
“So putting puts a bit of strain on it but while I’m happy with my tee to green play, my wedge play isn’t good and putting isn’t good, so those are the two areas where I have to find something."
Harrington's putting problems are a mental challenge in that he now finds he tenses up and putts more pressure on himself over putts. As a result, he's even less likely to hole them and being more accepting on his misses is key, as he explained after a long session on the putting green on Monday with Dr Bob Rotella, a key member of his team alongside Professor Steve Peters:
"Attitude – that's all I am working on. No technique at all. Just trying to find the right attitude, just really trying to get .... trying to work and not worry about the outcome, trying to be more accepting of missing.
"Golf is always a game of mistakes and managing making mistakes and I obviously have been a great putter throughout my career but I am definitely wanting not to miss more than ever.
"You get into grooves like that where you think you can’t afford to miss, you think you have got to play great or hole everything, you get caught up in that when your results aren’t as good as you want them to be and you want to have a big week.
"Whereas, if things were going well, you are turning up and things are falling into place, you are not worrying about the odd missed putt.
Q You are probably going to birdie the next hole anyway?
"I am in the opposite camp at the moment, everything seems to be costly to me. Whereas if you are playing great...."
Harrington originally hurt his knee playing soccer with his sons Paddy and Ciaran four years ago and while hasn’t played soccer since.
He insists he’ll never stop playing with his children, explaining: “At the end of the day, life wouldn’t be worth living if I couldn’t run around with my kids.”
This will be his 16th appearance in the US PGA and having won it in 2008 and led The Open in the final round just last month, he knows he can win a fourth grand slam title.
He said: “I have more club-head speed now than I ever had in my career. I’d be more worried about 20 year career than age, so if you start at 18, you’re finished at 38.
“If you start at 24, you’re finished at 44. I’d be more worried about that. Nicklaus won in ’86 at 46, but Nicklaus had virtually given up after 1980.
“He got thrown a Major so I think the golfing gods were nice to him in that sense.
“So you’ve got to understand the nature of the game. Your Faldos, your Woosie’s, your Lyles, probably even Monty, none of them made 20 years. I’m trying to be different and get past that.
“You could argue that Jim Furyk has, and you could probably pick one or two that has, but most of the guys, if they’ve achieved their goal in their career.
“And clearly I have over-achieved in the sense that I wouldn’t have had those goals, it’s hard to keep going afterwards.
“Philip Walton achieved his goal of making the Ryder Cup. What comes after that?
“You could pick a lot of players in a similar situation, that once they’ve peaked, it’s hard to contend.”
Harrington’s putting continues to be his biggest headache but he’s hoping that being more accepting of missing putts will help him mentally.
He joint led the Open after five holes in the final round only to see his challenge derailed by a lost ball in the gorse that led to double bogey at the sixth.
While he admitted his putting is not as good as it was, he said: “I hadn’t holed everything, I hadn’t played majestic and yet I was still leading. That’s a nice feeling.
“To feel like you can be leading an Open and feel like you can win a Major well within yourself is exactly how I was when I was winning my Majors, so that’s a good place to be.”