In 2008, Padraig Harrington had the golfing world at his feet. He won the Open Championship for the second consecutive year at Royal Birkdale, and also outlasted Sergio Garcia to win the USPGA Championship at Oakland Hills.
Harrington also played in his fifth consecutive Ryder Cup, although Europe were comprehensively beaten by the United States 16.5 to 11.5. He finished the year third in the world rankings and was also voted PGA Tour Player of the Year for 2008, and narrowly missed out on the European Order of Merit, losing out to Robert Karlsson.
However, Harrington was not fully content with his success, and set about making improvements to his game by trying to change his swing. He did not have a bad year in 2009, finishing in the top 10 of the Fed-Ex Cup standings, and he remained inside the top-10 of the world rankings, but crucially it was his first winless year for a decade.
2010 was Harrington’s worst year for quite some time. He missed the cut in three of the four Majors he played in, and missed six cuts on the PGA Tour, but was controversially given a wildcard pick by captain Colin Montgomerie for the 2010 Ryder Cup. Experts claimed Montgomerie did not have the bottle to drop Harrington in favour of Justin Rose who was in far better form than the Dubliner. Harrington won two and lost two of the four matches he played in, helping Europe to regain the Cup 14.5 to 13.5. He went on to win the Iskandar Johor Open in Malaysia on the Asian Tour at the end of 2010, his last win to date. Harrington had slumped to 25th in the world rankings at the end of the year.
2011 was no better than 2010, a disastrous year for Harrington. He was disqualified from the HSBC Abu-Dhabi Championship after failing to replace his ball after it had moved on the green. He missed the cut at the Masters and his best finish in a Major was T-45 at the US Open. Harrington outside the Top-50 in the world rankings for the first time since 1999. He was clearly a man in crisis.
2012 saw a slight improvement in Harrington’s form. He posted top-10 finishes in both the Masters in the US Open, but after six consecutive Ryder Cup appearances, Harrington was overlooked by captain Jose Maria Olazabal, who instead chose Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts, both of whom played key roles in the ‘Miracle at Medinah’, where Europe overcame a 10-6 deficit going into the Sunday singles to win 14.5 to 13.5.
Since the beginning of 2013, Harrington has slipped out of the top-100 in the world rankings, thus losing his playing privileges for the Major Championships (not including the Open and the USPGA where he receives an invite for being a past champion), as well as the World Golf Championships. When he failed to qualify for the 2014 Masters, it meant Harrington’s run of 33 consecutive Major appearances was over.
So the question is, where did it all go wrong for poor ol’ Padraig?
It is clear that unnecessary swing changes have not helped his cause, and questions have been raised over whether his caddy and brother-in-law Ronan Flood is able to meet the requirements of a professional caddy.
Harrington needs to assess where his career stands at the moment and ask himself if the changes he originally made were actually necessary. If Harrington is to gain inspiration from anyone, it should be two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson. Watson is self-thought and has never had a lesson in his life. Harrington should look at Watson’s success and question how vital making those mechanical changes to his game really were.
It’s not too late for the Dubliner to bounce back, but something needs to happen fast before he finds himself battling for his Tour Card.
Evan Greer, Pundit Arena.
Featured Image By SN#1 [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.