[dropcap]A[/dropcap]t the time Pat Spillane and, in particular, Colm O’Rourke, sustained their knee injuries, the general consensus would’ve been that they would have been career ending injuries. Thankfully for the sports viewing public, that gloriously wasn’t the case as both went on to confirm themselves as two of the greatest exponents of Gaelic football there have brrn.
Having annexed three of the competitions by which, rightly or wrongly, the success or otherwise of most golfers, logic would surely suggest that Padraig Harrington should merit similar acclaim in golf. Now, maybe it’s just me, but, that hasn’t always appeared to have been freely forthcoming.
The Ballyboden man has always been a figure of immense intrigue. His class at his craft undoubted. You don’t achieve as much as he has without being supremely talented. However, that he was the inspiration for a column here some months ago titled ‘Resistance often futile with a meddlesome mindset’ illustrates the complexities that have bookmarked various chapters of his career.
Most baffling and indeed frustrating from a spectator perspective was that – for reasons best known to himself – it was in the wake of his three Major victories and when his game appeared to be at its zenith that he appeared to begin to tinker with his game. Such are the intricacies of Harrington that the old maxim about not fixing things that do not appear in need of repair was never going to apply.
Comparisons between the injuries encountered by the former top footballers and Harrington carries credence as, where the knee injuries could have ended the careers of the two pundits prematurely, the golfer’s tendency to meddle, coupled with a self confessed case of the yips in 2012 seemed to have – in terms of being a genuine contender at any rate – done exactly that to Stackstown’s most celebrated.
Were such to have transpired, it would have undoubtedly represented one of the greatest disappointment to happen in any sport in living memory. That said, as frustrating as it has been for those of us watching the decimation of someone indisputably capable of so much better than has been in evidence in recent seasons, one shudders to think of what it must be like for the player himself and those around him.
One thing that evidently couldn’t be questioned was his self belief. Without concrete production to back it up, though, it appeared there may have been a cross between vain hope and delusion at play. Then again, as with anything in life, someone who had been as good as Harrington for as long simply couldn’t plunge to the depths of mediocrity that have afflicted him and stay there.
Every road has a turn. And while winning a modest event like the Indonesia Open just prior to Christmas wouldn’t exactly prove that he was about to return to stardom, it did frank one vital fact – that he retained the knowhow and, maybe more importantly, the ability. Granted, while ascending from 314 in the world rankings to 297th wouldn’t exactly have one speeding to a bookie to wager on Harrington actually winning anything, when one considers the lowly places to which his game had plummeted, that there was any degree of positivity on the horizon at all should’ve been newsworthy enough.
Perhaps there is a degree of confidence required in all facets of life, in fact its undoubted there is. The need is, however, more manifest in sport than most places and in no other sphere thereof more so than golf maybe. Sometimes all it needs is one thing to flick a switch to spark something special.
Even allowing for the incalculable boost the Indonesian win will have been, I still don’t mind admitting to struggling for words to articulate the remarkable story that has transpired in the interim. Not even another creditable finish in a tournament on one of the lesser tours could’ve served as a prelude to one of the greatest, bravest, most inspirational sporting performances I have ever seen. Many people probably had similar feelings.
Starting odds of 250/1 will always seem a little derisory for someone who has achieved so much in the game. Against that, until He went and did something of note again, they were probably about right. Mind you, often the smallest signs are the most obvious. Regardless of what the tournaments he played in were, Padraig had obviously been returning to some bit of form in recent times. Anyone susceptible to a degree of superstition might also have clung to the fact that he had won the Honda Classic before, albeit a decade ago.
During the difficult years, seeing the player begin brightly only to implode miserably. Thus, the odds compilers still left him 66/1 despite being in the lad after Round 1. For Paddy (as Tiger likes to call him), you see, it’s never straight forward. The weather went haywire, as did his golf, during what amounted to three rounds in two days. A Monday finish just adding to the drama.
What never flinched was Harrington’s own belief and courage. His class shining brightest just as you felt he was about to blow it beyond repair. He almost did. Reverting to type and making things needlessly complicated by hitting water on the trappy 17th. Having holed a monster putt to earn himself the reprieve of a playoff against the hitherto unknown Daniel Berger, he had the gumption to recognise his own error.
Boy did he atone for it second time. Hitting the most majestic shot I’ve ever see him hit. It wouldn’t be Paddy without drama, though. So, true to form, he needed two of the available three putts to seal the deal. An amazing win. A tribute to courage and bravery.
The only blight on which was Ewan Murray’s side observation that it was a great win for someone near the end of their career. Maybe not yet, Ewan!