Harrington ready to play PGA Grand Slam after frantic few days of change

Padraig Harrington at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf
Rochalle Stewart/The PGA of America
Padraig Harrington got in a few swings with a cricket bat on Monday at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf.
By
Josh Ball
PGA.com Contributor

Series: PGA Grand Slam

Published: Monday, October 22, 2012 | 9:48 p.m.

SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda -- Padraig Harrington was contemplating a trip to China on Friday afternoon. Little more than 24 hours later, he was booking a flight to Bermuda and relishing the chance to settle some unfinished business at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf.

The Irishman, an 11th-hour replacement for the injured Ernie Els, has played in the tournament twice before, both times in Bermuda, losing in playoffs to Angel Cabrera in 2007 and Jim Furyk in 2008.

2012 PGA Grand Slam of Golf

The 2012 PGA Grand Slam of Golf -- featuring four major champions -- takes place Oct. 23-24 at Port Royal Golf Course in Southampton, Bermuda. Keep track of all the action with PGA.com's special coverage.

His 2007 loss at Mid Ocean Club still really grates with the multiple-major winner, but he doesn't really remember the one a year later and he's looking forward to making amends when the two-day event begins Tuesday morning.

"I can't remember the playoff which I obviously lost to Jim Furyk, but I really remember the one I lost to Cabrera," he said. "He got the last to get into the playoff. I thought I had it won. I remember that one all right, and hopefully this is third time a charm.

"I've come close twice in Grand Slams and hopefully it will be that close coming down the stretch this week and it would fall in my favor," he added. "That would be nice. You never can tell, but that would be the plan; to keep it the tournament as long as possible and hopefully down the stretch, do a few nice things, things turn in my favor and I come out winning."

With this week’s BMW Masters at Lake Malaren in China already in his travel plans, Harrington had been at home in Ireland practicing for that European Tour event.

Switching to come to Bermuda was less of an issue than the mental problems it caused. The Irishman had set aside three days of practice to hone his game and said the late call had made it difficult for him to focus mentally during the Pro-Am on Monday.

"Playing the Grand Slam was a great choice, but it was made that much easier by the convenience of coming to Bermuda," he said. "I left Dublin 10:45a.m. on Sunday whereas I had intended to leave on 7:30 that evening [for China], so it was only a slight change of plans.

"I had planned three full warm-up days to get myself for switching over from hitting technical shots on the range to playing and I obviously had just the one of those days today," he explained. "You know, I could see it, the first couple of holes today, I was definitely a little bit -- I was struggling with my mental focus. As I got into the round, though, I got a little bit sharper and sharper."

With the Grand Slam played over just two days, Harrington said he couldn't afford a slow start in his chase for a first Grand Slam title, which means he'll have to get his focus back straight away.

"Unfortunately, this is a quick event, two days. You've got to be ready to go from the first tee," he said. "I can't afford to be playing well with nine holes to go and that's it. I've got to play well from the start.

"So it is an interesting one. You do need to be as sharp as you can be from the word go," he added. "There's not enough time in this event if you don't start fast."

Harrington's late call-up also caused a couple of problems for the organizers. With Port Royal all set and ready to go, Els' picture and name was on everything.

His face adorned flags lining the half-mile driveway to the clubhouse, his name was on his locker and space at the driving range and on all the scoreboards, and he was featured heavily in the tournament's souvenir program.

The Open champion's decision to withdraw due to an injured ankle triggered a 48-hour scramble that saw vendors from West Palm Beach to Wisconsin pressed into action, and a last-minute dash on Sunday morning from Chicago get posters and flags to the course with only hours to spare.

"We had been given a heads-up that he [Els] had hurt his ankle late Thursday afternoon, so we went into the motions of preparing for the worst," said David Charles, the PGA's senior director of championships. "We had already set in motion finding which players were going to be available based on the list [of alternates, based solely on previous major winners]. It came down to two players -- Jim Furyk would have come, he was next behind Padraig.

"We actually ordered a set of graphics for both guys," Charles added. "The only thing we didn't order were the flags and pictures and stuff because the company that supplies it for us in Wisconsin was actually low on material."

In the end, Els made his final decision to withdraw late on Friday and the Wisconsin company had to know by 7:00 a.m. Central Time Saturday if it was going to print the material.

"It was a scramble at the end. We had to get photos of Padraig to our photographic department in Florida, they put everything into a template, had it proofed by the printers and they were sitting waiting to give it the go," said Charles. "It was a commercial flight out of Chicago, scheduled to fly Sunday, so they had to have it all done by Saturday night, packed done and ready to go.

"We did pretty damn good changing it out in only 48 hours notice," he said. "Quite the feat."

Most people would have been impressed by the speed with which the PGA made the changes. But not Harrington. He said he expected nothing less.

"I would expect nothing else from the PGA, and that's to be honest," he said with a smile. "They are a professional-run organization and they are on top of these type of things.

"They didn't surpass expectations, they lived up to expectations," he added. "They don't get a pat on the back for that."