Harrington fears neck surgery delay could mean major "disaster"

Harrington fears neck surgery delay could mean major "disaster"
 Wilson Golf's Pádraig Harrington

Wilson Golf's Pádraig Harrington

Padraig Harrington is considering surgery on his niggling neck injury but fears delaying the operation could jeopardise his chances of returning to the scene of his second Open win at Royal Birkdale in July.

The Dubliner, 45, has a trapped nerve around the C5 joint at the base of his neck and suffered pins and needles and loss of distance in his first four starts this year.

He will be playing his fifth event on the spin at the Honda Classic this week and confessed that he faces a tough choice if his neck doesn't respond soon after getting a cortisone injection in L.A. to release the nerve.

“I have to make that decision reasonably quickly for Birkdale,” Harrington said.

"They are talking up to 12 weeks without hitting a shot. So if I go and have it done, pretty much immediately, I'd be ready to go back playing just sometime in mid-June. So I'd be in good time for The Open.

“The only issue I have is if I delay surgery, thinking I'm getting better, and then I end up having to have surgery in May or something like that. That would be a disaster to miss out on Birkdale and miss out on the [US] PGA (Quail Hollow, Aug. 10-13), as well, during the summer.”

For now, it appears, surgery is not on the agenda.

"No. No, as I said, I seem to have a trapped nerve. I do have a trapped nerve in my neck. My one recommendation is surgery. At the moment, I'm going through trying to calm down the nerve with a cortisone injection.

"The problem I get from it is I've pins and needles; I've had numbness in my right hand. I have atrophy in my right triceps. Probably lost about five miles an hour of clubhead speed. I saw last week in the stats that I hit it 50 yards short of where Dustin did last week.

"Forty or 30 might be acceptable, but 50 is a lot to give up. As I said five miles an hour clubhead speed, eight miles an hour ball speed is 20 yards. And you feel it.

"You know, when you are used to having it and you don't have it, that's a lot worse than if you never had it at all. It's hurting at the moment in that sense; that it's a bit of a struggle off the tee. And nearly more of a struggle with the irons. I struggle to hit an iron over 200 yards at the moment. That's a bit of a battle.

"So hopefully the injections work, and as I said, I'm not in much pain with the neck. But it's hard to tell if they are working because the pins and needles and the numbness take longer to go back and obviously the muscle strength will take even longer to come back. But at the moment, the plan is rehab, get through it. But I will definitely get another opinion when I get home."

Harrington, who has not yet qualified for the Masters or the US Open, is currently ranked 148th in the world.

And while he hasn't been back to Royal Birkdale since his win there, his focus is on making it to Augusta National and Erin Hils first.  

"I don't think I've been back since I won," he said. "I am really looking forward to it. I'm selfish enough at the moment that I'm kind of trying to -- I was focusing on trying to have a great start to the season so that I could get into the Masters, and after that, I would have been focused on trying to focus on having a great midseason to get into the U.S. Open.

"The injury has kind of changed my focus, saying, well, looks like I won't be getting into those first two events; that I'd better get ready for The Open Championship. And it is all about that now. My focus has moved to being sharp and ready for The Open.

"The annoying thing about the injury, if I do have to take the 12 weeks off, if somebody turned around and said: You have to take 12 weeks off and you're allowed practise, I'd actually be delighted. But having to take 12 weeks off and do nothing is going to be difficult."

Harrington will tee it up at the Honda Classic, where he triumphed in 2005 and 2015, with Adam Scott and Justin Thomas.

He is joined at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens by Seamus Power and Graeme McDowell.