Refractometer is Padraig Harrington’s 15th club
Golf shoes? Check! Range finder? Check! Sun block? Check! Refractometer? What in the blessed name of Ben Hogan is a refractometer?
And why does Padraig Harrington never travel to a tournament these days without one?
The answer to those two questions helps illustrate how Ireland’s three-time Major champion and his backroom team of doctors, scientists and technical experts leave absolutely nothing to chance in his preparation for events.
Every day, Harrington will use a hand-held refractometer to determine if he’s properly hydrated he simply places a drop of urine on the prism and forwards the results to his health and fitness specialist Dr Liam Hennessy for analysis.
On the 15 to 20 weeks per year that Dr Hennessy travels with the Irishman to tournaments, the medic himself will conduct daily blood, urine and stress testing on Harrington to ensure he’s in peak physical condition, especially going into that crunch time at tournaments — Sunday afternoon. Until recently the fitness director at the IRFU, Dr Hennessy played a key role in the success of Irish rugby entering the professional era, helping to develop the speed and mobility of our players at a time when others, especially the English, opted for brute strength.
Yet his work on Harrington’s physiology is just one facet of the Dubliner’s 24-7 devotion to the pursuit of further success at the Majors. If it’s within reason (and, of course, the rules) he’s willing to give anything a try.
World-famous mind-guru Dr Bob Rotella; bio-mechanic and putting specialist Dr Paul Hurrion; leading golf chiropractor Dr Dale Richardson; a team of boffins and research specialists at the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) in San Diego and, probably most important of all in golfing terms, renowned Scottish swing coach Bob Torrance, all support Harrington’s cause with a wealth of knowledge.
Prominent among the members of Team Harrington is the player’s elder brother Tadhg, his caddie as an amateur and a former Garda who, after five years association with Dr Hennessy and working his way up the ladder at the TPI, is now studying for a masters degree in the Psychology of Coaching.
Tadhg offered an interesting insight into this brother’s insatiable appetite for knowledge when he revealed that Harrington brought two books with him on holiday this week as he recovers from keyhole surgery on his right knee last Tuesday.
No thrillers, chillers or sci-fi for Harrington. Instead, he’s been reading ‘The Talent Code’ by Daniel Coyle and ‘Talent is Overrated’ by Geoff Colvin, two fascinating tomes which strongly espouse that exceptional ability, sporting or otherwise, is not born but is grown through practice and perseverance.
Though an avid reader of newspapers, Harrington studiously avoids articles about himself he’s done so since age 18, according to Tadhg, who adds that friends and relatives are warned not to discuss such items in his presence.
”I actually laugh at some of the things written about him,” said Tadhg. “Padraig doesn’t tinker too much with his swing. He doesn’t put himself under undue pressure or think too much or any of that other rubbish. In fact, he’s happier and more confident (with his game) now than ever before.
He insisted his brother’s insatiable appetite for work and his desire to explore every potential avenue for improvement, “is the poison which has made Padraig great.
“Nobody complained when he won three Majors in 13 months yet everyone’s sounding off because he hasn’t won in more than a year,” Tadhg went on.
“But I’m telling you now, Padraig is the most confident person in the world that he’s doing the all the correct things to put himself in a position to win the next Major.
“Even if he never wins another tournament, he’s so confident in what he’s doing it’s almost frightening to see it at first hand.”
Few are better equipped temperamentally to accept Dr Rotella’s proposition that golf itself “is not a game of perfect” but if that refractometer helps Harrington stay fit and fresh to face the ravages of the back nine on Sunday at the Majors, then it’s every bit as important as his wedge or putter.