Rónán MacNamara in Royal Liverpool
‘Sorry, I didn’t know I left you guys in the rain,’ jokes a bone dry Pádraig Harrington to the Irish media under the comfort of his large red Wilson umbrella.
The late morning Royal Liverpool rain clatters against the media centre and the scattering of Irish umbrellas creating a mini kaleidoscope of colour surrounding Harrington adjacent to the chipping green.
The faint clips of Matt Fitzpatrick’s chips and the skidding thud of golf balls on the greasy surface provide a soothing percussion as Harrington bullishly talks up his chances of a third Open Championship victory this week.
“I’m playing nicely and the fact I have done it before people will think, OK can I do it again, they know i have the bottle to do it in that sense,” explains the 2007 and 2008 Open champion.
“Physically I’m playing well, mentally I’m getting my head in the game, when you know you’re playing well then you start thinking you have to get your mental game sharp and get your mental game sharp and that’s what I’ve been doing last week and Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday this week and hopefully Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and by the time i get there Sunday afternoon I really am in the zone so that’s the focus, getting myself mentally ready, there’s no issue with the physical stuff. I can go and win this, there’s no doubt about it.
“First and foremost you can’t go out there and play somebody else’s game, you go and play your own game, you have to believe that, if that gets me into a position on Sunday where I’m in contention i’m certainly going to create that reality for myself that I can beat anybody down the stretch under pressure.”
The 51-year-old, grouped with Seamus Power and Talor Gooch for the opening 36 holes in Royal Liverpool was in contention at the halfway stage of the Genesis Scottish Open before fading away last weekend but a PGA Tour top-10 and two major championship cuts in 2023 have given him a tonic to compete more on the main tour and changes his schedule.
“You know what, I’m changing my schedule because I can go and win. That’s why I’ve changed my schedule, no other reason. At the end of the day I think myself and Ronan have identified that we keep turning up to events in isolated situations and they then become one-off events.
“You know, I took my card in the US back in the day in order to play the majors and make it familiar when I turn up at a major. You can’t turn up to events and be meeting everybody that you haven’t met for weeks on end and then you’re distracted and talking. So there’s a lot things going on. If you’re going to win tournaments, you’ve got to make it, you know, just normalise it. If I want to win I’ve got to play more regular events, get used to the pin positions and things like that.
“I’m capable of winning so I just have to play a few more of them. And you’re not going to just win one event in isolation, you’ve got to play 10 events and get in contention a few times and get a feel for it and get a flow of the pace of life on tour. So that’s why I’m playing more European Tour events.”
“I considered changing the schedule based on Ryder Cup but then if I wasn’t in contention I wasn’t going to change my schedule. I’m now changing my schedule because I’m playing well enough to win. So that’s why I’m changing my schedule.
“As regards Ryder Cup, the likelihood is if I’m going to win I’m probably going to win a bit too late for the Ryder Cup so that’s just the way it is.”
Trust Pádraig Harrington to bring a splash of colour to a dull Tuesday morning at the Open Championship and if the ten-year window that his caddie Ronan Flood pointed out is to be believed, then he might just have more than one major punch left in him.