Padraig Harrington begins his bid for a second Irish Open title on Thursday, hoping that his work with one of golf's best-known gurus can pay off for him just as it did for Darren Clarke.
American mental coach Bob Rotella was given some of the credit for Clarke's amazing British Open triumph two weeks ago, but he was actually staying with Harrington while at Royal St. George’s.
2011 IRISH OPEN
The 7,161-yard, par-71 course at the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club is built alongside Lough Leane, which can come into play on four of the first 10 holes.
The Dubliner, winner of the Claret Jug in 2007 and 2008, missed the cut and has now fallen from third in the world to 64th. But he has been working on his game ever since, and feels in better shape now ahead of the tournament in Killarney.
"I have been struggling with my putting for the last few weeks and just couldn't put my finger on the problem," said Harrington. "We (Harrington and Rotella) worked on it before the tournament started and I thought we had figured it out, but it still wasn't working.
"On Saturday evening we talked about it again, did some work and I believe that we hit the nail on the head,” he added. "Ultimately it came down to the fact that I hadn't fully committed to my preparation and so I was still trying to figure out what I was doing over the ball. I wasn't trusting my reads and so when I stood over the ball I was still trying to figure out where I was going to hit it.
"Once I got this clear in my head it felt so much better. It was very disappointing to miss the cut, but I feel that the work I got done over the weekend will pay big dividends in the coming weeks.
Even though he continued to practice over the weekend, Harrington did watch most of Clarke’s final twho rounds at the Open.
"He played superb and was the deserved winner. It is great to see him back in the winner's circle,” he said. “I don't think there is anyone that is not delighted to see him join the major club.
"It's not like Bob told him anything that he didn't tell him a hundred times before, but you've got to love the fact that it worked for one and not for another,” Harrington added. “That's the nature of the game.”
Harrington, the first Irish winner of the Irish Open in 25 years back in 2007, would have triumphed again last year but for a brilliant performance from England's Ross Fisher. After a course-record 61 in the second round, Fisher came under pressure from Harrington's closing 64, but shot 65 to win by two.
Fisher partners Rory McIlroy in the first two rounds, while Clarke is with Shane Lowry, winner of the title as an amateur two years ago.