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Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington was inspired by Tom Watson's performance at Turnberry. (Kirk/AFP/Getty Images)

Harrington far from downbeat as two-year Open reign ends

Though he couldn't pull off the three-peat, Padraig Harrington believes the swing changes he's implementing are taking hold. And, he said, he'll be a far better competitor down the road.

TURNBERRY, Scotland (PA) -- Padraig Harrington believes he will have "the last laugh" after his reign as Open champion came to an end at Turnberry.

Harrington lifted the Claret Jug at Carnoustie in 2007 and again last year at Birkdale, becoming the first European since James Braid in 1906 to successfully defend the title. The 37-year-old then added the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills just three weeks later, but chose to make major swing changes over the winter.

Those changes have come in for scrutiny following a poor 2009, which has seen Harrington miss his last five cuts on the European Tour and PGA Tour before the Open, where he was bidding to match the hat trick of titles last achieved by Peter Thomson from 1954-56.

But speaking after a closing 73 left him 12 over par and heading for home long before the leaders even teed off, Harrington said: "I suppose I like all this stuff, I'm intrigued by it all.

"I always want to get better and this is a way of getting better. I will be a better player as a result of this and I will have the last laugh."

Harrington revealed he has been receiving advice from anyone and everyone about his swing, the most notable coming from Tom Watson on Saturday.

"I look at Padraig Harrington right now, he shortened his swing and I think he's having troubles because of it,” Watson said. "I liked the length of the swing last year, and now he's shortened the swing and he's having a hard time with it. You lose your rhythm when you shorten the swing."

But Harrington insisted with a smile: "I've never tried to shorten my golf swing. It's amazing that everybody's got that in their head.

"That's something the media have come up with to try and analyze it. It may have shortened, but I've never tried to shorten my golf swing,” he explained. “What actually happens is I've actually got a little bit stuck because I was lifting my arms so I couldn't go any further.

"I'm a great believer, as (my coach) Bob Torrance is, that your swing finds its own natural length, as Tom Watson's has. It is very nice that he (Watson) would take time out and give a helping hand but I've never tried to shorten my swing.

"Why would you do that? Over life your swing will get shorter, Mother Nature does that,” he added. “Plenty of people have come up to me and offered advice and it's all taken on board, but I've never tried to shorten my swing."

As for the end of his reign, Harrington said he would be watching on television when the Claret Jug was handed over to someone else, but that his replica at home might be used to fool his two sons, Patrick and Ciaran.

"It's come to an end, it's been a good two years being Open champion," he added. "I look forward to coming back in future years, I think I have another 23 to come back to (past winners are exempt until 60 years old).

"I look forward to it with Tom Watson showing that it's possible I could be competitive for another 23 years,” he said. “I know I will come back and compete in many more Opens and I will win some more majors.

"There was a lot of good (ball) striking out there this week. This is one of those weeks I will put into the category of 'This wasn't my week,'” he added. "Going forward, I would have no problem playing competitive golf the way I played this week."
 

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