SAN DIEGO — Most professional golfers answer questions in much the same way as a garden sprinkler dispenses water: by rote and with no thought. Not so Padraig Harrington. The British Open champion takes his time with each thought, so much so that he is sometimes overtaken by the next thought coming around the corner. A press conference with the genial Irishman can be a swirling, headache-inducing ride. Take this, for starters:
Is it an advantage or disadvantage coming into the U.S. Open as a recent major champion? “Having won a major, it brings a certain amount of stress because you want to go on and win two,” Harrington replied.
So it’s a bad thing? Wait! Hold that thought…
“It also gives you confidence because I believe I can do it again.”
So it’s a good thing, and a bad thing.
Does Harrington think he can win? “I would actually fancy one of the short, straight hitters to do nicely.”
Okay, that’s not him. On second thoughts…
“It looks wide open for everybody.”
That clears that up.
Harrington has never played the South Course at Torrey Pines before and his initial impression is that the USGA setup is very fair. “Everybody is pleased with it,” he said.
That’s good, right? Actually…
“That’s a little disappointing because it’s always nice when about half the field are moaning about the course.”
Harrington’s form — like his thought process — has seen all ends of the spectrum this season. He has four top five finishes, including a T4 last week at Stanford St Jude, but he missed the cut in the Players Championship and the Wales Open on the European Tour. Such highs and lows would be a conundrum for any conventional-thinking golfer. But Harrington isn’t one of those.
“I tend to play better when I am on my lowest form rather than on my best form,” he said.
“When I am confident I don’t tend to do well for some reason, but when I’m struggling, I tend to come out and do really well.”
That augurs well for this week, then. I think.
Pass the Advil.