“I am probably loving it more than ever”

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick July 6, 2023 12:03

Two-time Open champion Padraig Harrington talks to Daragh Small about why he loves his golf more than ever now and how a putting green that he designed can introduce the game to more people in Ireland.

Despite winning the Open Championship in both 2007 and 2008, Padraig Harrington is loving his golf now more than ever. It is the twilight years of his professional career but with his right knee holding up he is determined to stay active on the amalgamated DP World, PGA and LIV Golf tours, turning 52 next month.

His sensational form on the PGA Tour Champions might suggest he will focus his efforts there but he can still compete against the very best and winning against the young guns is a delightful carrot.

“I am actually probably loving it more than ever,” said Harrington.

Padraig HARRINGTON (IRE) during the play off at the British Open Championship, 22nd July 2007. With the famous claret jug.

“I went through a period where five or six years ago I would have been a bit burnt out and finding it hard but I have got rid of a lot of the stuff I don’t want to do and I am really enjoying my life on tour and that’s showing up in my golf.”

Harrington hasn’t been afraid to move with the times either, even outside of the golf course he has taken to social media since the pandemic and shared some useful hints and tips about the game.

While more recently his giant Bernese mountain dog, Wilson, has become a feature of the non-work-related activities online.

But even with this sideshow, and being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame class of 2024, the legendary Irish golfer is still looking to find ways to improve his game.

Swing speed has been a huge focus for Harrington and winning a recent bet with Shane Lowry, where he got to 191 mph, was another feather in the cap.

“If you want to keep your swing speed up you have just got to keep working at it,” he said.

“It’s generally not a physical thing when it comes to swing speed. So it’s not a gym thing, it’s not getting stronger in the gym. Not saying that that isn’t a problem but the real thing with it is breaking the mental, psychological barrier of swinging faster without the fear of hitting crooked.

“So, if you are going to try and work on your speed you have to give up the idea that you are trying to hit it straight. You should be doing it in a net, or in an indoor simulator or on a driving range where you are nearly trying not to hit it straight.

“And then when you go and play just play within yourself, like there is no reason to swing so hard on the golf course. But if you train yourself to swing ten miles an hour quicker when you swing easily, you will be five miles an hour quicker.”

But the man who began his career playing amateur golf in Stackstown, is cognisant that this cannot go on forever. And while he is fit and able he wants to make the most of his professional career. Surgery to his knee can definitely wait.

“I need an operation on my right knee but no I am not going to do that in the very near future,” said Harrington.

“I am playing too well to have to take six months out. So I will push it as far as I can. I am managing it, I am working, doing a lot of physio. Really strengthening the rest of the leg to protect the knee. I am good to go at the moment.”

Meanwhile, he will continue to defy logic and compete with the elite golfers around the world.

“It’s a nice thing to be the oldest winner but to be honest my aim is just to win,” said Harrington.

“I feel good about my game and I feel like I can win at any stage. I don’t feel like I have to get lucky to win. I feel like it’s well within myself. It’s a nice accolade but I’m definitely just out there to win.”

Harrington was the captain for the Ryder Cup last time out, an unsuccessful trip to Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, where Europe succumbed to a 19-9 defeat.

But as Luke Donald’s charges begin to take shape ahead of this September’s renewal in Rome, Harrington is confident that between Masters and RBC Heritage winners, Europe are in a good place this year.

“Our top players are playing great.,” said Harrington.

“We have got maybe seven clear players ahead of the rest. We do need the extra five though. We need a couple of senior guys to re-find their form and we need a couple of young guys to show some form.

With Mark Kennelly

“It’s there, certainly when you have the top end, Jon Rahm playing so well, Matt Fitzpatrick winning recently. I saw a stat that we have seven European wins this year. So there is a lot of good stuff happening.”

Harrington also believes initiatives like the Marlay Putting Green can help make golf more accessible to a wider audience in Ireland.

Located in Dublin’s Marlay Park, the putting green looks to introduce the game to new golfers and offer an enjoyable space for people of all ages and backgrounds to gather and have fun.

The 3,000-metre squared green designed by Harrington was built by Atlantic Golf Construction in partnership with Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and Turfgrass. It was funded by the Padraig Harrington Charitable Foundation along with grants from The R&A and Golf Ireland, supported by Sport Ireland’s special projects scheme.

And as he officially opened the venue, Harrington knows it can pave the way for further ventures throughout the island of Ireland as the sport of golf continues to prosper post-pandemic.

“I am thrilled to announce the opening of the Marlay Putting Green. It has been amazing to see this project come to fruition and I am so pleased the people of Dublin will be able to experience golf in a fun and family focused setting,” he said.

“My aim for this project has always been to create an affordable and accessible facility which is designed for all ages and golf abilities at no cost. I’ve always wanted to give back to the community and find a way to introduce the game of golf to all generations.

“It’s very easy because you don’t have to build them all to this standard. I would say to any park, any public facility, just put nine holes in a tight bit of grass and people will putt on it and enjoy it.”

Golf Ireland CEO Mark Kennelly added: “We are thrilled to support the Marlay Putting Green, it’s an extraordinary community-focused initiative.

“This project perfectly embodies Golf Ireland’s vision of making golf accessible and enjoyable for all. We take pride in partnering with Padraig Harrington, a true representative of Irish golf, and contributing to the growth of this fantastic facility that will inspire future generations of golfers.”

“Putting is easy for beginners and really difficult for experienced people,” added Harrington.

“So, I wanted to give something that everybody can come and enjoy. You don’t have to be a golfer; you can just walk by in your jogging gear and stop and have a putt for ten minutes.

21st April 2023
Pictured at the official opening of the new Pádraig Harrington designed Putting Green in Marlay Park, Rathfarnham.
Developed in conjunction with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, it will provide a 3000 sq. metre state of the art innovative amenity, publicly accessible within the Park and will help open up the game of golf to people of all ages and backgrounds, introducing a whole new generation to the sport and making it a fun and entertaining experience for families and friends.
Chris and Allanah Flood trying out the new putting green in Marlay Park cheered on by Pádraig Harrington.
Photo by Peter Cavanagh

“Or play the course, spend half an hour, spend an hour. Have fun with your kids, grandchildren. The whole family can come and play, mothers and daughters. Everybody can have a bit of fun and it’s free, it’s accessible to all.

“And there’s no rules and regulations. So people don’t have to worry about coming here and fitting in in some way. What they are wearing and what not. They can come here and enjoy it on their own terms and hopefully come back.”


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick July 6, 2023 12:03
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