'Harrington's a master tactician – he'll have them putting from 30 feet off the green'January 9, 2019 The Scoop
Phil Bonham has worked closely with Padraig Harrington for 20 years. He tells James Savage tales from the glory days and what sort of Ryder Cup captain he will be
Padraig Harrington can often be found performing a wacky practice routine on the driving range ahead of an event.
He’s also someone who has been prone to some unusual equipment changes.
But the record books show he’s a three-time major champion with 31 professional wins to his name. Not that he often practised putting in the dark.
Harrington has been a Wilson Staff player for nearly 20 years and no one knows more about his quirky ways than their European Tour manager Phil Bonham.
We caught up with Bonham to find out what sort of Ryder Cup captain Harrington will be and why his meticulous course management will a key asset at Whistling Straits.
And why he once had to smuggle the Claret Jug through airport security in his rucksack…
Padraig has always tinkered with his equipment. Is this to keep you on your toes?
He’s always tinkering around but once he finds something he likes then that will stay in play.
He can get to like something very quickly. The other day I built him a C300 3-iron which I bent to a 2-iron. He hit about three or four shots with it and it went straight in the bag.
Everybody laughs at Padraig doing his crazy practice routines on the driving range but when you look at the results he’s had – he’s won three majors, that’s what professional golfers work towards.
The person who works hard on certain things is the person who wins the event.
A lot of golf now has turned very robotic and players are trying to hit the ball very straight now – all the young guys are hitting it long and straight.
There aren’t many players around who still shape the ball. It’s the older players who still use their hands to move the ball around and that’s exciting.
Just hitting it straight takes the edge off it a little bit. But that’s also what new product is helping players to do.
Does he study Trackman numbers or is he more of a feel player?
Every tour player has a Trackman these days. Some players are more into the numbers than others but it can still take the best part of a day to go through it all.
There’s no magic to it – you’ve got to physically test different clubs and shafts and Trackman is there to back things up.
He’s really into Trackman now but a few years ago he wasn’t. We used to physically mark out the distances so he would know a definite distance
But he’s getting much more into it now, especially with the driver. He wants to see the ball speed and then work out the rest from there.
With long irons he knows how far he needs to hit that iron whether it be 240 or 245 so we use Trackman as a back up to actually seeing the ball flight.
What sort of things might you be doing with him week-in, week-out on the tour truck?
Firstly we’re there if he need any accessories – caps, towels, umbrellas, that sort of thing.
Because of the nature of the forged clubs he uses we have to check lie angles regularly, especially when the fairways are really firm. We’ll check these every two to three weeks.
This year we’ve had a lot of wind so we’ve seen more players using 2-irons and driving irons and that’s something that can be needed week in, week out.
There can be a fair bit of work with those to get the right shafts and ball flights dialled in.
We used to get out to an event on a Monday but now we’re getting there on a Saturday and there are often players there on the Sunday getting ready.
What’s the strangest thing Padraig has ever asked you to do?
It’s difficult to say to Padraig that something is bonkers. It’s not as easy as that.
Sometimes you have to get through things without making too much comment.
There are always strange things and there are always pros and cons for each.
I’ve been working with him for 16 years. It’s always been fun.
There have always been things come up that you think are strange but if you do something for a player and they win that tournament, that’s all that matters. It’s got nothing to do with how a club looks.
In the old days we used to put a lot of lead tape on the club heads but no one seems to do that much any more. Everything has to be hidden nowadays.
So why did Harrington’s Claret Jug have to be smuggled in a rucksack? And what sort of Ryder Cup captain will he be? Find out on the next page…