Sport Golf

Friday 24 February 2017

Can Harrington rise again?

Three-time Major winner will drop out of the world's top 50 next Monday ... but don't bet against him bouncing back

Karl MacGinty

IT'S just as well Padraig Harrington spent the weekend at the Monaco Grand Prix -- watching the BMW PGA Championship might have driven him up the wall.

Few venues would suit Harrington better than the revamped West Course at Wentworth.

Especially when unsettled, blustery weather turned European golf's showpiece into what winner Luke Donald described as "a tough, tough test, a grind."

Harrington is the toughest grinder in golf but has few opportunities to put that quality to the test these days as tournament promoters set up courses for thrill-a-minute scoring to boost TV ratings.

Even the Majors are not immune. Over the past two years, for example, an obvious effort has been made at the Masters to restore the Augusta National roar, with birdies and eagles galore.

And Mike Davis, the new executive director of the USGA, made US Open courses more player-friendly in his former role as director of rules and competition -- mind you, Congressional could be a real beast in two weeks' time.

With no rough to speak of, Wentworth last weekend would have been right up Harrington's alley, had he not been ruled out by injury.

Harrington dropped another two rungs to No 50 in yesterday's world rankings. Since the Dubliner doesn't return to Tour action until next week's St Jude Classic in Memphis, he is certain to drop out of the elite top 50 next Monday for the first time since March 2000. Seven of the 10 men directly behind him in the rankings are in Tour action this week, six at the Memorial in Ohio and one, Ross Fisher, at the Welsh Open in Celtic Manor.

"Obviously, I don't want to drop out of the top 50, but what can I do? It's not for a lack of effort. It's not for the want of trying," said Harrington, who will limit himself this week to two gentle nine-hole sessions tomorrow and on Thursday at Royal St George's, July's British Open venue.

As Harrington is exempt for all Majors until at least 2013 and qualifies for the Bridgestone WGC in August as a European Ryder Cupper, potential repercussions for losing 'elite status' cannot arise until November's HSBC World Championship.

Yet it would be a surprise if the 39-year-old isn't back well inside the top 50 by then.

"It's not in itself a big issue," he said. "There's a big summer ahead and that's what I'll focus on. I actually feel my game is in great shape going forward, so I'm not panicking."

Though dogged by bad luck and injury this season, including disqualification in Abu Dhabi, a neck strain at Augusta and his recent knee problem, Harrington is in a much better place with his game than two years ago, when he was thrown way off kilter by swing changes. Don't write him off yet!

Irish Independent

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