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Defending British Open champion facing uncertainty

July 15, 2009

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— Padraig Harrington believes his experience winning the British Open the last two years will give him an advantage over almost everyone at Turnberry. The hard part will be giving himself a chance.

The Irishman is trying to become only the second player in the last century to win golf’s oldest championship three successive years. He has won three of the last eight majors, the highest rate since 2007 of any golfer, including Tiger Woods.

The trouble is, Harrington has obsessed so much with retooling his swing that his game is out of sort. He has missed five straight cuts on the U.S. and European tours coming into Turnberry, although he did capture the Irish PGA last week outside Dublin.

“The one thing I know is that if I get in position, I can win. That’s the nice thing,” Harrington said Tuesday. “Others can get there, but they won’t win. So at least I can do it if I can get into position.

“Can I get into position is what’s in doubt.”

Harrington is working with Bob Torrance on his swing and with Bob Rotella on his brain.

After a dismal spring, followed by constant tinkering, he finally had what Harrington calls an “intervention” with his wife, caddie and Rotella, with instructions to start competing instead of spending so much time on mechanics.

But it remains a work in progress.

Harrington thought he turned the corner last week when he played two practice rounds at Turnberry, only to feel his swing had deserted him at the Irish PGA, even though he won by seven shots at The European Club against a weak field.

“Golf is always — for me, anyway — a juggling act of keeping all the balls in the air and keeping everything working together,” he said. “And I’ve always concentrated on one ball a lot and a few of the other ones have fallen on the ground, and it’s a question of picking them up and getting them all together again.”

He believes he’ll be a better player when he sorts through the latest round of swing changes.

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