Padraig Harrington believes the best preparation for The Open Championship is to direct his burning focus towards next week’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart Golf Links.
The Irishman, who won back-to-back Opens in 2007 and 2008 to provide the catalyst for The European Tour Membership’s Major Championship domination from 2007-2011, believes next week’s £2.5 million showcase in the Home of Golf provides the ultimate platform to prepare for golf’s oldest tournament.
“I’m fully focussed on winning The Scottish Open,” said Harrington during a teleconference on Friday afternoon.
“I won’t be thinking of The Open when I’m playing at Castle Stuart – I’m thinking of The Scottish Open all the way through. The Scottish Open is a big enough title that you want to win it in its own right. From next Thursday morning onwards, I will only focus on the Scottish Open for four days and trying to get into contention.”
Given his recent form, Harrington could very well be contending to steal World Number One Luke Donald’s crown at Castle Stuart. The meticulous Irishman has started to marry his ever-improving level of performance with the only currency that matters in any sport – results.
A tie for fourth place in the US Open and then a joint-seventh place finish at the Irish Open saw Harrington back in genuine contention at two of the most important events on his schedule, where we saw the famous Harrington focus in those Irish eyes.
It was the same look he showed the world when closing out successive Open Championships as well the 2008 US PGA Championship, and Harrington is well aware of his growing confidence and belief in the changes he has made to his game under coach Pete Cowan and psychologist Dave Alred over the past year.
“I've had two substantial changes by starting to work with Dave Alred and Pete Cowan in the last year, and certainly both of those are absorbing all my thoughts and energies at this stage,” he said.
Another reason for the spring in the Harrington step is the time of the year. Links time, that is.
Having played the Irish Open at Royal Portrush last week, Harrington cannot wait to get to Castle Stuart to continue fine-tuning his links expertise ahead of The Open at Royal Lytham St Annes.
Harrington and links golf are a marriage made in heaven. Challenging, engaging, fascinating and infinitely perplexing, you can never be too sure of what you are going to get: the mark of any great links course or sportsman.
“I like to play links golf before I get to The Open,” he said. “I think it's a distinctly different form of golf than what we regularly get. The big advantage this year is having the Scottish Open on a links golf course again a couple of week after the Irish Open was held on a links golf course.
“The Scottish Open has one of the most important dates on the European calendar being the week before The Open and it just wasn't good preparation to go to a beautiful parkland course the week before a links golf course.
“Now that they have changed it, it's fantastic. I know some people don't like playing the week before a major, but there's no substitute for playing competitive links golf.
“You cannot compare how far the ball goes on a soft parkland course to how it goes off links turf. You cannot compare the wind and the effect it has on the golf course. It might be the same strength of wind but it affects it totally different on a links course.
“There are so many things, and yes, you can go and practice on a links and that is a help, but being competitive, when you have one go at it and a card in your hand, that is when you feel the difference.
“This year, if you played the Irish Open and now you're going to play the Scottish Open, you have two great chances, up to eight competitive rounds of golf where you're going to pick up the differences. I think that's the best preparation that you can get for playing The Open. Links golf is just not the same thing as what we normally play.”
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