‘Padraig Harrington’s golf was what niggled Sergio Garcia’

Left to right: Les Ward of the Gillians Saltire Appeal; Pauline Thomson, a Gillians Saltire Appeal flat user; Sam Torrance and Valerie Ross, Maggies head of fundraising (Scotland). Picture: Bill Fleming
Left to right: Les Ward of the Gillians Saltire Appeal; Pauline Thomson, a Gillians Saltire Appeal flat user; Sam Torrance and Valerie Ross, Maggies head of fundraising (Scotland). Picture: Bill Fleming
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Sam Torrance reckons Sergio Garcia had good reason to be peeved with Padraig Harrington but only on the basis the Irishman “had his number” from a golfing perspective. The Scot was unaware the pair didn’t get on and only buried the hatchet recently over a chat at Rory McIlroy’s wedding.

“I didn’t know they weren’t speaking and they were in great form at last year’s Ryder Cup,” said Torrance, talking during a visit to his home town of Largs to announce the Gillian’s Saltire Appeal and Maggie’s as the official charities for this year’s $7 million Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Dundonald Links.

It was Harrington who revealed last week that the pair had cleared the air, using McIlroy’s wedding in County Mayo to do so the previous weekend after the Irishman had said some things he regretted in his commentary role for Sky Sports after Garcia had won the Masters last month.

“Sergio and I are on a much better footing,” said the three-time major winner.

“We’ve had a chat, because obviously clearly there was a bit of an elephant in the room about what I said. We have decided that we will look, going forward, at our similarities and the good in each of us rather than any other way. So we are in a great place. So if anything, it’s worked out for the better.

“It was something that needed to be done straight away and the opportunity came up. I’ve got to say, Sergio made it very easy. He was exceptionally good about it. He already was well informed, which was nice. That he looked into the deal of it and he understood what I was actually saying.”

According to Torrance, it was Harrington twice coming out on top against Garcia in major battles – the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie then the US PGA Championship at Oakland Hills the following year – that had caused the Spaniard to feel aggrieved and nothing else.

“You’d be pretty pissed off with someone who beats you down the stretch in a major, but I didn’t think it was personal,” added the 63-year-old. “Padraig certainly had his number. I didn’t see friction at the Ryder Cup, though, and I think that says everything about the Ryder Cup, for sure.”

Few people know more than Torrance, of course, when it comes to that event. His celebration after holing the winning putt at the Belfry in 1985 is one of the event’s iconic images. His captaincy at the same venue in 2002 was deemed as masterful.

A vice-captain for the last two matches, he’s not sure if he’ll have a role in Thomas Bjorn’s backroom team for next year’s match in Paris.

“I’ve no idea and it’s way too soon to be contemplating, but I’ll certainly be watching,” he said. His advice for Bjorn? “Win it back, Thomas,” he said. “While it was good for the event that they did, I’ll never agree the Americans were due a win (at Hazeltine). They have won, but now it’s time to win it back. The longer it takes to win it back, the worse of a rut you are in. It’s like falling off a horse. Once you fall off, you have to get back on it and we have to win it back straight away.”

Torrance is delighted to see the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open being staged in his native Ayrshire for the first time and equally delighted that the event on 13-16 July will help raise valuable funds for a charity in Largs. Set up in 2006, the Gillian’s 
Saltire Appeal owns a flat on the seafront where 450 people suffering from cancer have been sent by Maggie’s to enjoy a holiday.

“It’s a great gift to give to people when they are not well,” said Torrance, who is eager to get playing again now that he’s recovered from a knee problem that has kept him sidelined since the French Seniors last September. “It’s great for them to be able to come here and stay and switch off in what is a little bit of paradise.”

Golfing paradise for Torrance, of course, was on the European Tour, where he made 706 starts. The first of those as a fully-fledged pro came in the 1972 Spanish Open at Pals. He still remembers it as if it was yesterday, though partly because it almost turned into a disastrous debut. “I got up in the morning and, as a Scotsman who didn’t speak any Spanish, I asked, ‘where is the course?’” he recalled. “Well, it was a three-hour drive away. It wasn’t the best start. I had to change hotels and get to the course. Sergio’s dad (Victor) was playing, (Antonio) Garrido won it. I have many stories from that.”