Fresh from firing a course record 61 in the opening round of the Transitions Championship, the lowest round of his professional career, Padraig Harrington retired to the press centre and gave a characteristically articulate post-round interview.
Though initially coaxed into giving a statistical summary of the round – yardages faced, clubs hit – it wasn’t long before the Dubliner, winless on a the PGA Tour since the his triumph at the 2008 PGA Championship, ventured into more ruminative territory.
“I felt I’ve played better than I’ve performed for the last 18 months… I played better than I performed. But I’m playing better again now.
“So even though, like, my performances were distinctly average over the last, say, 18 months, I was playing okay; performed average. Now I’m playing good, so I’m actually playing better than I was over the last 18 months, as well as I just need to take that to the golf course still.”
Did frustration ever begin to take its toll, wreak havoc on that that fragile competitive mindset?
“You know, I’m pretty good on that side of things. I pride myself on being very strong mentally, but you know, it’s frustrating, as I said, when your World Ranking is slipping and I wasn’t playing Doral this year, I didn’t play in the Match Play; since they started, that’s the first time I’ve missed them.”
According to Harrington, a run of poor or disappointing form, though it tends to engender either wild optimism or disappointment, demands the player adopt a sense of perspective, a little distance from the week-to-week collection of paychecks and results.
“When you’re trying to explain [poor form], it’s difficult to explain it when you go: ‘I hit the ball well.’ I couldn’t ask for any more than that. I’m doing the right stuff. I’m working on the right stuff. I’m putting in the effort. And just kind of go, you don’t have the answers. That’s probably the hardest part – you’ve been asked questions that you don’t have the answer to. And you try and explain it, and maybe explaining it digs you deeper into a hole that you’re still trying to explain your way out of…
“I haven’t played any different. How you can explain golf? When things are going for you, you walk off the golf course thinking you played like you shot 70 and you shot 68. When things are not going well for you, you walk off the golf course feeling you played like you shot 70 and shot 72…
“I was just on the 72 bandwagon for a long time.”
Wise words, indeed, but not half as satisfying to read as this exchange, in which Harrington corrects a journalist – who shall remain nameless – for inaccurate use of the term “ironic”.
“Journo: There were a lot of shouts on the course for happy St. Paddy’s day; what did you think about the irony of that coming up this week and everybody shouting it out on the course for you?
Harrington: I would consider that a coincidence… *Laughter*”
Pedantry: it’s an Irish pastime.
The Irishman currently enjoys a three-shot advantage over Will Claxton and a further two-shot buffer over a chasing pack that includes Jason Dufner, John Senden and all-round nice guy Kenny Perry.
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