By Norman Dabell
VILAMOURA, Portugal (Reuters) - Renowned British coach Pete Cowen and his latest pupil, Padraig Harrington, are seeking further proof this week that the three-times major champion's game is back on song.
Harrington parted company with his coach of 13 years, Bob Torrance - father of former Ryder Cup captain Sam - in July after his game hit a new low with missed cuts in the British Open and his home Irish Open.
The 40-year-old Dubliner had plummeted down the world rankings from the third position he held shortly after claiming his third major title, the 2008 U.S. PGA Championship.
Two weeks ago Harrington finished eighth in the Dunhill Links Championship and began what he and Cowen hope is a climb back up the rankings, where he currently sits 78th.
"Padraig came and asked me at the Bridgestone (tournament) if I would give an opinion on his swing and what I thought might improve it," Cowen, whose many pupils include world number two Lee Westwood, told Reuters on Wednesday on the eve of the Portugal Masters.
"He thought he was spending far too much time on his long game, to the detriment of his short game. Padraig won two majors in 2008 with the best short game in the world. He felt as though he'd neglected that and when you looked at the stats it proved it. He'd become almost non-competitive.
"He's good at bashing himself on the range and he couldn't understand why he wasn't getting any better," Cowen said. "Padraig told me he had the wrong feeling with his swing. I then explained how he could get rid of that feeling.
"I just tried to simplify his action. It was complicated and required massive amounts of time. I felt he needed better mechanics which need less time spent on it.
"We've put a lot more stability on his right side on the backswing so he supports the club better, a simple movement which then needs constant repetition. Then he can make the right action on the through-swing. If you load the swing right, you unload it correctly.
"I've given him a training aid for the range that does that while he's swinging. It's a two-thumb grip put on in a certain way on the shaft. He's now more comfortable with his long game and can concentrate more on his short game again.
"Obviously Bob's done a great job because Padraig's won three majors but we all know that it's the short game that makes the difference in the long run.
"With more time to work on it, he's now capable of getting back to being the best short-game player in the world."
(Editing by Clare Fallon)