It has been an inconsistent year for Padraig Harrington, with the Irish golfer only showing flashes of his talent, writes Micheal Halton
As Padraig Harrington jetted of to Copenhagen to deliver a keynote address to the International Olympic Committee on golf’s bid for Olympic admission, he will have been able to reflect on an amazing turnaround he has completed over the last two months. His recent fourth place finish in the Tour Championship, just behind Tiger Woods, was a world away from the seven months of frustration he endured at the start of 2009.
The swing change problems that dogged his early season form, ruining his chances at both of the Opens and at Augusta, now seem to have been resolved, with his prospects in the end of season Race to Dubai greatly enhanced as a result.
Harrington’s impressive form of late has come in direct contrast to his early season travails. A disappointing 35th place finish at the Masters was followed by a string of five missed cuts in a row, including the Irish Open and the US Open. A turning point in his season came when he claimed his first win of the year at the Irish PGA, which was his third successive victory in the event.
While the victory hinted at the prospect of a return to form, Harrington’s effort faltered in the British Open as he stuttered to 65th place, missing out on the opportunity of becoming the first man since Peter Thomson in 1956 to win three successive British opens. Criticism rained down on the three-time Major winner as many questioned the wisdom of changing a winning swing.
Harrington travelled to the Bridgestone Invitational matchplay tournament under growing pressure, but somehow found himself leading world number one Tiger Woods in the tournament’s final by one shot with two holes to play, only to succumb to a disastrous triple bogey. Harrington responded strongly, though, as he produced a robust defence of his US PGA title. The reigning champion was within one shot of the lead at one stage, before a quintuple bogey wrecked his hopes of claiming a fourth major title. Despite this setback, Harrington went on to claim his only top-ten major finish of the year.
This renaissance proved to be the catalyst for a brilliant late season run which carried him to four further top-ten finishes, including the 4th place finish in the Tour Championship, putting him in contention for the FedEx Cup. Finishing second to Tiger Woods, though, meant that it was Woods who took the $10m winner’s bonus. Woods’s greater consistency over the course of the year made him a worthy winner, as Harrington’s poor early results proved too much for him to overcome.
The Dubliner will resume his challenge for the Race to Dubai in the Portugal Masters next week, where he will look to challenge the lead of young tyro Rory McIlroy. The northern teenager has had a year to remember, claiming two top-ten finishes in the Majors including a tie for 3rd at the US PGA. His performances this year have underlined his world-class credentials, and in particular his undoubted potential to be Ireland’s next Major champion.
Graeme McDowell’s performances, meanwhile, have highlighted that he will have major ambitions in 2010. The prospect of three Irishmen on the podium in Rio in 2016 may seem farfetched, but when Harrington, McIlroy and McDowell are mentioned, the thought might not seem so ridiculous, though Ireland might be disappointed by McIlroy’s decision to represent Great Britain at the Games.