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Padraig Harrington
The defending champion took some time to sign autographs for his fans on Monday. (Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Harried Harrington plans to take it easy for a few days

After his adrenaline-fueled showdown with Tiger Woods at Firestone on Sunday, Padraig Harrington is altering his preparations to defend his title this week. Mostly, he wants to cool out a little bit.

CHASKA, Minn. (PA) -- Padraig Harrington will scale back the preparations for his PGA Championship defense this week after his final-round showdown defeat to Tiger Woods at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday.

Harrington put eight months of struggle with swing changes behind him at Firestone Country Club to lead for three rounds and battle down the stretch with the world No. 1 for 16 holes before sending his hopes of a first title this year into a greenside pond.

Harrington admitted that the encounter with Woods, played out in 90-degree-plus heat and high humidity, had taken a physical toll ahead of his journey to Hazeltine National for the final major of the year.

"Yeah, there's no doubt that it's not the greatest preparation in the world to have an adrenaline-filled week of holding the lead all week and doing all the interviews and all that," Harrington said. "That's not the best preparation, but I'll probably just take it a little bit easier for the three practice days.

"Instead of getting out there, I certainly won't be playing 54 holes over the next three days,” he explained. “I'll probably just take it easy and rest up, working on the principle that if I'm to win next week I've got to be fresh on Sunday."

A further obstacle to that hope, Harrington revealed, would be the fact he and 2002 champion Rich Beem have been paired with Woods for the first two rounds, thus having to deal with the hoopla over 36 holes that accompanies the world's best player wherever he plays.

"I don't know if you guys are aware of that, but the hardest thing about playing with Tiger in the first few days is very few players play very well in the next two days after," Harrington said. "It wears guys down playing with Tiger the first two rounds of a major. A lot of players perform okay on the Thursday and Friday, but then on the Saturday and Sunday after the hype has gone away, they've struggled.

"Because of the hype and adrenaline that you use up playing with Tiger on the Thursday and Friday, there is a little bit of a lull afterwards, and players have tended not to perform as well on the weekend, even though they've matched him or played well on the Thursday or Friday."

That was not a problem for Harrington the last time he was paired with Woods in the first two days of a tournament, at this year's U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.

"I missed the cut," he said with a laugh.

Nevertheless, Harrington said he had taken on board the warning sign and would be prepared come Thursday.

"I would actually play down playing with him in the first two rounds, as in as much as I'll hype it up (for a final round), I'll play it down in those situations that I don't want to wear myself out before.

"The tournament doesn't start in a major until the weekend or the last round. So the last thing you want to do is get too hyped up early on, and it's possible with all the tension that you would,” he added. "So you have to work the opposite, so definitely cool it off a little bit when you're playing with him the first two rounds."

Harrington said he would take a lot of positives from his tie for second behind Woods at Firestone.

"I was happy with the week overall, yes. Obviously a disappointing finish to the week,” he said. "Yeah, you know, I'll go do my stuff for the PGA now and see what happens with that. "Overall most things were pretty positive I would say.

"I certainly did a lot of things that you need to do right when you want to play good tournaments, and I did a lot of that this week,” he added. "My short game was sharp. Probably see a bit of a weakness in my wedge play. That needs a bit of improvement. And the long game was sufficient anyway."
 

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