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Page last updated at 11:54 GMT, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 12:54 UK

Harrington upbeat on USPGA hopes

The PGA Championship
Venue: Hazeltine National Golf Club, Minnesota Date: 13-16 August
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 live; scorecard updates and reports on the BBC Sport website

Padraig Harrington and Tiger Woods
Harrington (left) finished runner-up to Woods in Ohio last week

Padraig Harrington is confident he is playing well enough to defend his USPGA title at Hazeltine, despite being in the midst of changing his swing.

The Irishman has struggled for form this year, missing eight cuts, but he claimed second place at the World Golf Championship event in Ohio last week.

And, even though his new swing is "six months" from being "grooved in", the three-time major winner is optimistic.

"I'm capable of performing well enough without that move to win," he said.

Since winning the USPGA title at Oakland Hills 12 months ago, Harrington has struggled to make an impact in competition until the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last week in Ohio.

606: DEBATE
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The 37-year-old looked back to his best in the first three rounds, but leading by one shot in his final round, Harrington carded a triple bogey on the 16th and finished four shots adrift of world number one Tiger Woods.

But it is the form from the early rounds that has buoyed the Dubliner.

"I think what you saw last week was more of a mindset change," he said.

"About six weeks ago, I kind of figured out ultimately what the move was that I was looking for to fix the problem I had.

"I haven't quite corrected it or done enough work in that period of time, but it's obviously put my mind at rest. I'm focusing more on playing golf, and that's what you would have seen last week.

"I think ultimately, the move, while it should improve my game as I go on for the rest of the year, I would still think it will be through the winter, next winter, before I start to really have it grooved in.

"So it will be another six months."

With almost all of the world's top 100 golfers set to feature at Hazeltine this week, Harrington will have to mirror his form from last year to be in with a chance of picking up the Wanamaker Trophy.

Standing in his way will be Woods, who is yet to win a major in 2009 after returning from eight months out following reconstructive knee surgery.

I'm very proud of not only winning the golf tournaments but how consistent I've played

Tiger Woods

"It's been a great year either way," said Woods who has won five tournaments from 12 starts this year.

"For me to come back and play as well as I've done and actually win golf events, to be honest with you, I don't think any of us would have thought I could have won this many events this year.

"I'm very proud of not only winning the golf tournaments but how consistent I've played.

"I feel as if I made some pretty good strides since the Open.

"I think it was evident the way I was hitting the golf ball last week, I really hit it good last week, and hopefully I can improve on that and carry that over into this week."

The course at Hazeltine is the longest in PGA Championship history at 7,674 yards and US veteran Jim Furyk believes, with four par five holes, three of them longer than 600 yards, big hitters like Woods will be serious favourites.

"I wouldn't count him out anywhere, but it's an advantage for long hitters to have four par fives," Furyk said.

"I don't feel overly stressed. But I notice three par fives over 600 yards. That's kind of funny."

World number two Phil Mickelson, who returned to the tour last week after spending time caring for his ill wife and mother, and two-time PGA Championship winner Vijay Singh of Fiji are among the long hitters who should thrive at Hazeltine.

"You're not going to make a course too long for Tiger and Phil and Vijay," Furyk said.

Rich Beem
Beem won the 2002 USPGA championship at Hazeltine

Rich Beem, the 2002 USPGA winner, has the honour of playing with Woods and Harrington for the first two rounds of the incredibly long course, and the 38-year-old American is aiming to use his high-profile playing partners as inspiration.

"It kind of narrows your focus a little bit," said Beem.

"Certainly playing with both of those gentlemen, who played extremely well last week, they do drag you along with them, which is nice.

"Lord knows I need some help right now."

Beem won the most recent of his three PGA Tour titles in 2002 and has missed eight cuts on the circuit this season.

"My game is not the sharpest it's been in a while but I'm looking forward to going out there and playing with those two gentlemen," he said.

"I'm really looking forward to going out and playing a golf course that I've had success on and really enjoy playing."

American Stewart Cink notched his first major title at last month's Open and said that victory has given him the belief that he can win the USPGA.

"I didn't win any majors for about 50 starts," said 36-year-old Cink.

"Then I won one and now all of a sudden I feel like I can do it every time. It's a huge confidence builder."

Since his playoff win over Tom Watson at Turnberry Cink has been hoisted into the hierarchy of players at the top of the men's game.

"I'm usually the under-the-radar guy in the group. I hear the 'Go Phil,' 'Go Anthony,' 'Go Camilo' but never hear 'Go Stewart' unless someone chuckles after it," he said.

"Now it's a different story. And that really feels good."

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy has vowed to be patient as he concludes the first year in which he has played in all four majors.

The 20-year-old, who broke into the world's top 20 this year, said: "I hope to have 30 years to win majors - I've never set myself a timetable.

"It's not as easy as Tiger makes it look sometimes.

"The thing about majors, it's a lot easier to put yourself in position to do well in a major than in a regular tournament.

"You don't have to make birdies. You can grind out a few pars.

"I've learned to be patient as well. You don't go chasing scores in these tournaments. That can cost you two or three shots."



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see also
USPGA just wants to be loved
11 Aug 09 |  Golf
Woods repeats slow-play criticism
12 Aug 09 |  Golf
Casey forced to pull out of USPGA
13 Aug 09 |  Golf
Patience key for McIlroy at PGA
11 Aug 09 |  Golf
USPGA Championship tee-off times
15 Aug 09 |  Golf
Woods wins as Harrington crumbles
10 Aug 09 |  Golf
Woods secures victory on comeback
25 Feb 09 |  Golf
Superb Harrington clinches USPGA
11 Aug 08 |  Golf
USPGA photos
11 Aug 08 |  Golf
Golf on the BBC
01 Jul 11 |  Golf


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