Woods backs Harrington’s steel

World No 1 applauds the Irishman’s resolve as rebuilt swing starts to pay dividends
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The Independent Online

As Padraig Harrington consolidated his position as one of the main contenders for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational here yesterday, Tiger Woods expressed his admiration for the Irishman's conviction in persisting with his recent swing changes.

However, the world No 1 could not help but express some jealousy as well. "I couldn't afford to go to that deep, dark place [where Harrington has been]," Woods said. "I would have been getting killed by you guys [the media]. I win five tournaments and you would say I was having a slump."

Harrington, of course, has not come close to a win in the top flight this year and this remarkable U-turn in form, after winning back-to-back majors at the end of last season, has been down to the radical technical adjustments he has undertaken with his coach, Bob Torrance. As someone who has, himself, decided to rip it all up in the past when everything was apparently going swimmingly, Woods is a fine man to comment on this course of action which many find baffling.

"You have to believe what you're doing is right, even though people tell you what you're doing is wrong," said Woods, who last went back to the drawing board with Hank Haney five years ago. "I've been through that twice, and I think I've turned out on the good side both times. It's just that you're going to get a lot of bombardment, not just from the media but from fans, from friends, family... they're going to always doubt and question you. But you've got to have the internal resolve to stick with what you believe is going to be right and you're going to get better."

Harrington has been saying for weeks that he has turned the corner but only now the scores are coming is everyone agreeing. Yesterday's second-round 69 did not feature the Firestone fireworks of his opening 64, but that was perhaps inevitable with the pins tucked away. "Shooting that score yesterday gave me a great chance for the tournament," said Harrington, who advanced to seven under. "Anything under 70 from here on in is going forward so I'm quite pleased to have shot 69. You know, I wasn't going to throw a party last night just because I'd shot my lowest round of the year and I wasn't going to come out all guns blazing today. It was a day to be defensive, no doubt about it."

With that Harrington was off to the range "to work on a few things" but, with next week's defence of the USPGA looming, he vowed "not to do my usual and fail to leave the course before it gets dark". Harrington's arduous practice regime is well-known on Tour and Woods is plainly a fan of this workaholic.

"Paddy has always done things according to his own accord," Woods said. "He's worked extremely hard with Bob, all the countless hours and bad weather they've practised in to get better. We've all admired him for that, because I don't know how many second place finishes he had, but he didn't really win that much. But he kept progressing and kept getting better and better and more consistent, and then all of a sudden, boom – he's a three-time major championship winner."

Harrington's playing partner, Scott Verplank, matched his 69 to be on five under and in second place in the clubhouse with the afternoon starters just beginning. Spain's Alvaro Quiros was the big morning mover with a 65 to jump to three under. Meanwhile, Woods, a six-time winner at Firestone, came off with a par round of 70 to remain at two under as England's Ian Poulter fell back to one over after a 74.

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