The Art Of Winning With Padraig Harrington

GolfPunk popped around triple Major winner Padraig Harrington’s house for a cuppa tea and a biscuit. While there having a #GolfDunk we thought we’d get his thoughts…

On learning to win…

When I came on tour Monty, Retief Goosen, Ernie Els, they were the big stars, I put them up on a pedestal. So how am I going to compete with these guys? I worked with a guy called Jos Van Stiphout. I think this is why I’m the only player who has a better record playing with Tiger than Tiger. I have a lower strokes average in a certain amount of rounds against him. So when we played if he wanted to beat me he’d have to play well. That’s fine, if he played well I’d shake his hand and say thats great you’ve had a great day. He is a better player, there’s no doubt about that, but he’s not a better player every day.

It’s not like tennis where the best player, the favourite, rarely gets beaten. You never see a hundredth player in tennis beating a top ten player, let alone the best player. In golf that would be a pretty regular occurrence. You just have to hang in there, trust what you’re doing, and let the other guy prove he’s better. And it doesn’t always happen.

Padraig-Harrington-TheOpen-Feature1

On the different ways to win…

To me one of the biggest things about my major wins is they were all different. The first one I played great golf but didn’t really get much out of the week. Then played unbelievably on the Sunday, but I messed up the 72nd hole. I got my chance in the play off, did well and got over the line, but there is always a question mark. When you make double and mess up the 72nd hole, it definitely left something wanting.

It’s not like I couldn’t enjoy it. The very first night I won it, we went to the bed after the party, I woke up in the middle of the night to check the trophy was still sitting on the footstool at the end of the bed. Then I’ve woke my wife and said, “Look I’ve won the Open Championship!” she just told me to go back to sleep.

The second one at Birkdale I played great golf. Even though I wasn’t leading I was the favourite going into the last round. Things were ordered. Everything about that was how you would dream to win an Open Championship as a kid. I won by four shots, I got to wave to the crowds coming in. There were no questions, no second guessing, there was no doubting who should have been the winner. It was very satisfying. People can go back to Carnoustie and say if this happened or that happened, but at Birkdale nobody could second guess me.

When I won at Oakland Hills, I just stole that one. It was ugly and I stole it.

On the pride of being a Major winner…

We keep the big trophies in the kitchen. I don’t know why really. I suppose in here we see them everyday and they’re a regular part of our life. Every time I see them it cheers me up.

I was the first European  to retain the Open since James Braid in 1906. The further you get away from the wins the more you realies how big that is. It’s like wow ‘I won back to back Opens, and the PGA in 2008. That’s three majors!’. Winning a major can be a millstone. Not many people win one, then if you get stuck on one it be a burden on your career. So few get to two, and even less to three. It’s a nice satisfaction.

On winning more Majors…

I fully believe I will win again. I sees these things come in cycles. The great thing for me is I know I can do it if I can get myself into position. I’ve proven I can win. I just have to get back in that position.

Padraig Harrington poses with the trophy after winning the PGA Grand Slam on October 24, 2012 in Southampton, Bermuda. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

On what it takes for him to succeed…

I succeed because I feel I have weaknesses, I have to overcome them. I succeed because I think other people are better than me and I have to figure a way to beat them. I’ve never been the one to think that I’m better than everyone else. I don’t think I was good enough to be a professional golfer. I only turned pro because I was beating guys who were turning pro. I’ve maintained that throughout my career. I play my best when my back is to the wall.

On his fitness regime…

It’s very interesting in my house. I’ve got three pieces of cardio equipment. They never see the light of day. I get enough cardio doing my weights. Cardio, especially long cardio, is only slowing you down. You’re only developing your slow twitch fibres. Golf is all about having the power to hit one shot every ten minutes. When we’re on the golf course it’s not the walking that burns the calories, it’s the tension, it’s the nerves.

On working too hard…

The hardest thing for me, and I think a lot of players, is you’ve got to figure out how to get the right amount of rest if you actually want to develop. Basically your muscles only grow when you’re asleep. You spend all day breaking them down in the gym and then you need plenty of rest for them to come back right. That’s a hard thing for a lot of us as we got to where we are by working harder than everybody else.

Off the golf course, or at tournaments, I used to start my day by 5am, do my warm up and then wouldn’t leave the golf course until 6pm. I’m trying to get away from that habit. It’s taking too much from the next day. On a day like that, hitting balls for three or four hours in 90 degrees heat, I’d wear a heart monitor the whole time. After a session like that I’d burn 5,500 calories.

Padraig Harrington claret jug anchor

Golf is different from every other sport. Most sports they can do a maximum of 8 hours work. If you’re a soccer player for play two games per week, that’s three hours. You train on top of that, then some physio, and low intensity stuff. They might put in 20 hours a week. Tournament week I had no problem putting in 70, 80 hours. I’ve got to learnt from that. If you do 70 hours it’s just taking from the following week. I’ve made that mistake over the years, burning myself out by the Sunday of a tournament.

On technology…

When I’m round another golfer’s house, I’m not interested in the same stuff as when I was a kid, now I’m more interested in seeing what they’ve got technology wise. I use a Flightscope, and even in the golf shops they have monitors that can tell you how you’re hitting the ball, but at the end of the day if you’ve got a net to hit into and an iPhone you’re pretty much covered.

On preparation…

My yardage books are very detailed. Take this one, the Dunhill, that’s the next tournament I’m playing. I’ve mapped out all the the greens on these courses, I’ve got little arrows that show the break and taken a note of the pin positions. It means I don’t have to do this work again. I’ve got things like faces for wedges in here too.

Padraig Harrington drive

On downtime…

I’ve got a Ping Pong table in my games room and an automatic server to practice against. No doubt about it Matt Kuchar is the best at table tennis I’ve played against. Phil Mickelson gets coaching, like everything else he wants to be the best. Phil is pretty good. Tiger is pretty decent, him and Phil would have a good game. But Matt Kuchar comfortably beats everybody. It’s my favourite game down here.

I play a bit of snooker too, I used to play for the golf club. I’m ok when I’ve got a good partner. It’s like the Ryder Cup. I’ve got a fussball table too. See how americanised I am? I’m very competitive. I always want to play someone who’s just slightly better than me and beat them. I have no interest in playing someone who wasn’t giving me a good game. I always want to play someone i should lose to and figure out a way to beat them.

On keeping occupied…

I did the eight seasons of Breaking Bad on my last China trip. When you’re travelling to places like that, where you don’t have options for going out like the movies, you download a series, and get through the whole thing. There really is nothing to do at some events.

This piece appears in the most recent issue of GolfPunk. View the full issue >>

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