Everyday is a school day mentally for Harrington as he hits the front in St Louis

Ronan MacNamara
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Everyday is a school day mentally for Harrington as he hits the front in St Louis

Padraig Harrington (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Pádraig Harrington insists he is still learning how to adjust to leading from the front after he found himself at the summit on day one of the Ascension Charity Classic on the Champions Tour. 

A six-under 65 has Harrington level with the evergreen Bernhard Langer, one clear of Ernie Els, steven Alker, Mike Weir and Jose Maria Olazabal. 

It’s another step in the right direction for Harrington who is hunting down Steve Stricker in the Schwab Cup race and he finds himself at the top of another leaderboard, a mental challenge he is still trying to master. 

“Traditionally, my whole career I’ve always been a much better player with my back to the wall,” said Harrington who has two wins this season. “What I’m finding here on the Champions Tour is I’ve got to learn how to play, you know, when I’m favored, when I’m up front, when I’m out leading, when I’ve got a lead. That’s a different skill set and it’s not something I’ve ever been — I’ve never been really good at it. I was never good at it as an amateur, I was never good at it as a pro. I always found, you know, I was a much better chaser than somebody out in front. 

“And the one thing about the Champions Tour now is I’ve had a few leads and I have to learn, and I am learning. I’m getting better as a player, I’m definitely much more positive about my chances in that situation. Yeah, hard to believe, 51 years of age and I’m getting better mentally.” 

The Dubliner admitted he has improved as a player on the Champions Tour in the tournament build up and feels the challenge for him to stay at the top of leaderboards and compete to win more titles is a mental one rather than a physical one, with some hard work going on behind the scenes with long-time mental coach, Bob Rotella. 

“I’ve worked with Bob Rotella over the years. I’m working with him now 25 years. Never changed, never changed acts, we’ve always tried to do the exact same thing. I think when I’ve done it, I’ve been really good. I do it naturally when I’m in trouble. it’s I think you just lose your way at times when you’re — if you miss the cut or are in the middle of the field or you’re 30th, you feel like you’re so far away from the winning score, you try and bridge a gap, a huge gap, and the only way to do that is to think, well, I’ve got to change the physical. 

“I think as I’m out on the Champions Tour, the physical isn’t the issue, it’s always going to be the mental. I’m just focusing on my Bob Rotella stuff much more because of the fact I know that come Sunday, it will make the difference. 

“You know, going into these tournaments, there’s going to be a strong chance that I’m going to have a chance at winning the tournament with nine holes to play. And you know, nobody can guarantee winning any tournament, it’s not like that, but you can get yourself, if you prepare properly, you can get yourself into contention. If the right things happen with those nine holes to go, if the output drops, if you don’t get a bad break or you get a good break, you can win a tournament, but it’s all about being in the position that if you do get a nice break, that it means something,” added the three-time major champion. 

The 51-year-old was in imperious form carding six birdies in a flawless round of golf. Birdies on the second and third saw him turn in 34 before a brace on eleven and twelve and two birdies in his last four holes moved him alongside Langer at the top. 

Harrington was pleased with how he managed expectations on the golf course given his current good form. 

“I feel good about my game. You know, I hit it well, hit some nice iron shots, putted well. You know, kind of I felt in good form coming in, so it kind of puts you under a little bit of pressure and you’ve got to get the routines, the mental game right and for most of the today I did. So I’m pleased with my 6 under.” 

Senior Open champion Darren Clarke is just three shots behind Harrington as his fine late summer form continued with a 68. 

Scores

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