Golf Tidbits: Tinkering never ends for Harrington

Philadelphia, PA ( - The golf game is a fickle one and the golf swing is the same. Like fingerprints, no two players have the same swing.

Padraig Harrington has always tinkered with his swing. Those changes have hurt him, especially over the last five years.

"I grew up with no practice range, so that's why I've always been fascinated, obsessed with trying to swing the club and hit it better," Harrington said on Monday after winning The Honda Classic.

The Irishman rallied from five strokes off the pace to win for the first time since the 2008 PGA Championship. The victory came nearly five years to the day since his last top-three finish.

Ever in search of it, Harrington constantly tries to find the perfect swing. He also went through a battle with the yips.

"I was pretty keen on my own form, but I wasn't delivering. Since 2012, I've played well, but putted very badly. I had the yips. It was tough after that," Harrington admitted. "But last week, I kind of found something. It's a mental game, which is what's been going wrong. I stuck with that this week and it worked half the time."

Dating to the start of the 2011 season, Harrington had made 50 cuts in 77 starts. In that span, Harrington had only nine top-10 finishes. His best PGA Tour finish in that stretch was a tie for fourth at the 2012 U.S. Open.

His play started to turn around late last year when he won an event in Indonesia by two strokes.

"I won in Asia (in December). Believe it or not, when I get in contention, I can hit the shots," Harrington explained. "The problem has been the start of the week, middle-of-the-round shots, easy shots, I've just not hit them. When I've got tough shots, I can hit them."

His results bare that out. He played all four rounds in just two of his first eight starts in the 2014-15 season. He entered last week ranked 76th in first- round scoring average, but tied for 201st in the second round and tied for 205th in the third round.

After missing four straight cuts, Harrington finally played all four rounds at the Northern Trust Open.

Harrington carried the little momentum gained from his finish at Riviera to The Honda Classic. He was 7-under par through two rounds and had his first 36- hole lead on the PGA Tour since 2010.

He waned a little in the third round, which he played in its entirety on Sunday after heavy rain and strong wind halted action on Saturday. As darkness neared Sunday evening, Harrington was struggling and had dropped three strokes in his first six holes of his final round.

Play was finally called for the day, and that was the reprieve Harrington needed. He practiced putting in the dark and "found" something to use on Monday.

As play resumed, Harrington opened with a couple pars and trailed playing partner and leader Ian Poulter by five strokes with 10 holes to play.

Harrington caught fire with four straight birdies on the back nine, while Pouter collapsed. Harrington needed one last birdie at the 18th to get into a playoff after he found water at 17 and walked off with a double-bogey.

He came through with a clutch 15-foot birdie putt to force the playoff with Daniel Berger.

"One of the things that helped change my putting around was if I had a 10-foot putt to win on the 18th green, actually a 15-footer as it turned out, I wouldn't want anybody else to putt it," Harrington said. "So as much as I was struggling, I still would choose myself to read that putt and hit that putt. That gives me confidence."

The playoff pitted Harrington, a three-time major champion and owner of 30 worldwide titles, against Berger, who was playing his 12th PGA Tour event. Harrington stuffed his tee shot inside five feet on the 17th before Berger folded as he found water with his tee ball.

The tinkering has hurt his game, but there is no way Harrington will stop. That is what helped him win all those titles.


The search always goes on for the next breakout star. Andy Sullivan has entered that category with his hot start on the European Tour.

After missing the cut in his first start of the season in December, Sullivan has three top-five finishes in six starts, including two wins, in 2015.

Sullivan isn't new on the scene, as he enters his fourth season on the European Tour. He posted five top-10s last season, including a runner-up finish at the Trophee Hassan II.

That stood as his best tour finish until he won the South African Open. After shooting even-par in the first round last week at the Joburg Open, Sullivan went 18-under par over the final three rounds to win by two strokes.

He remained in South Africa this week and will try for his third win of the season.

Sullivan would have a big leg up toward making his first Ryder Cup team, but the European points have not yet started to accumulate.

That is the only downside to his game at this point.


* James Hahn and Padraig Harrington have won the last two PGA Tour events. At the start of those tournaments, both were ranked 297th in the world rankings. Steve Webster is No. 297 this week. Maybe he can continue the trend. If so, he'll do it at the European Tour's Africa Open.

* Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson may continue to grab attention on the LPGA Tour, but world No. 1 Lydia Ko should be getting more press. The 17-year-old claimed her 10th professional title on Sunday, giving her one more win than Wie and Thompson combined.