Padraig, Dr Bob and the mental secrets that made him a champion

Padraig, Dr Bob and the mental secrets that made him a champion
Dr Bob Rotella

Dr Bob Rotella

Pádraig Harrington has had three great father figures in his career — his father, Paddy Harrington, his swing coach, Bob Torrance, and Dr Bob Rotella.

The first two meant everything in his formation as a person and a swinger of a club but mental coach Rotella’s influence has arguably been even more crucial to his success.

Those who want to know more about the intimate details of Harrington’s life on tour and the way Rotella helped prepare him to win those three major titles, will be keen to attend at least one of two special events that are taking place at Roganstown Golf and Country Club on Monday July 18th and Tuesday, July 19th.

With seating limited to just 300 seats a night “Tour Life — An Inside View of Professional Golf," will see Dr Rotella will speak on Monday, July 18th about how he works and what he did to help Harrington use his talents to become the three-time major winning legend he is today.

On Tuesday, July 19th it will be Harrington’s turn to reveal his inner secrets and then spend the second half of the evening revealing yet more in a Q&A session that’s likely to be as eye-opening and replete with anecdotes as his relationship with Dr Rotella.

For Harrington, there is no greater expression of what Rotella’s influence meant to him than The Open at Carnoustie in 2007, where he double bogeyed the 72nd hole yet still had the mental strength to pick himself up and walk out for the playoff feeling invincible.

Rotella enjoyed that moment as much as any in his career and meeting him in the hotel lobby that Sunday night remains one of the highlights of what was Ireland’s first major win for 60 years.

Their fascinating story began in 1997, when the Dubliner hooked up with the University of Virginia Director of sports psychology after reading his book, ‘Golf is Not a Game of Perfect’ and spending two days in his basement. Talking.

Carnoustie was the culmination of over a decade of talking and chatting and while their relationship has developed from a professional, doctor-client dynamic and morphed into a close friendship, those early days remain key.

While Rotella knew the inner workings of Harrington’s mind better than almost anyone else, he was still amazed by his pupil's mental strength in his darkest hour that Sunday afternoon on the North Sea coast of Scotland.

After hitting two balls into the Barry Burn at the 72nd hole, Harrington produced one of the great recovery pitch and putts of all time to make the playoff with Sergio Garcia.

As Harrington said: “Bob once wrote that he’d rather meet somebody with great dreams rather than a great person with no dreams. It’s really about what you believe you can achieve. And that’s what limits you.”

When you see me out in the play-off, you are going to think I’m waving but I am raising the Claret Jug to the sky.
— Pádraig Harrington to Dr Bob Rotella before the 2007 Open playoff at Carnoustie

Speaking just hours afterwards, Rotella felt it was going to be a good week from the word go but it was what Harrington said to him rather than what he said to Harrington that stuck in his mind.

“You could really tell it was there,” Rotella said. “We worked for a long time on self-acceptance of anything and everything that happens and no matter how hard you work, you are going to make mistakes. It is a game. And you have got to accept it. And to watch him hit two balls in the water and then stay cool and then get that ball up and down was something I will never forget.

“I told him on the putting green as we were waiting for the play-off, I said to him: ‘If there is anything about yourself you have ever wanted to know, you just found out with that up and down. You have got what it takes.’ I said, that was so awesome.

“We work so hard on living in the moment. Our goal for the day was to be into your target and turn it loose unconsciously, and accept it wherever it goes. We don't want to be thinking about winning on the golf course, we don't want to think about not winning. 

“We don't want to get excited if you get off to a great start. We don't want to get down if you have a bad start. I don't want you to care what anyone else is doing. We don't have any control about Sergio or anyone else. Let's just take care of you.

“I told Padraig, ‘I want you to run out of holes like a track man running through the tape.’ If a trackman starts slowing down before the tape, he loses time. I want you to just run out of holes and then find out how you did.”

Visualisation is something Harrington has perfected over the years — like a Zen master. At Carnoustie, he put it into practice.

On the eve of the final round, he was already visualising himself with the trophy.

“He started talking like he was going to win, which is unusual for him,” said Rotella, who was staying at the house Harrington had rented. “And then the last thing he said was, I am going to my room and I am just going to do some visualising. He was ready for this.

“When we went to the putting green before the play-off I just went over and told him: ‘You just found out everything you wanted to know about yourself.’

“And Padraig looked at me and he said, 'I'm good. When you see me out in the play-off, you are going to think I'm waving but I am raising the Claret Jug to the sky.’ 

“Oh boy. I have never heard him say that. I said wow - he is ready. Go back and watch the tape of 17 in the playoff and you'll see him doing a bunch of waving. He told me while he was waiting for the play-off, he is not waving, he is raising the Claret Jug to the sky. When he said that to me, I thought, 'Well, yeah. He's okay’.”

Tickets for “Tour Life — An Inside View of Professional Golf” at Roganstown Hotel and Country Club, Swords, Co Dublin, will be on sale at this Saturday morning from 9am.
  • Monday July 18 - Dr Bob Rotella €125.
  • Tuesday July 19 - Pádraig Harrington €150.
  • Seats limited. Doors open 6pm.