independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Day 2 little more than a 'practice round' for dejected Harrington

Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington

THE frustration felt by Padraig Harrington, three-time Major champion and winner of the US PGA in 2008, was summed up in just nine words after the six-over-par 76 that left him out of the running at Oak Hill by lunchtime on Day 1.

"Tomorrow's a good practice round for me. That's it," said the disappointed Dubliner.

Harrington insisted he would try his damnedest to make the cut and garner something out of the season's fourth Major to give his FedEx Cup ranking a much-needed boost.

But when you have dined heartily at the top table in these championships, crumbs bring very little comfort. As that old cliche goes, tournaments are never won on Thursday but they sure as hell can be lost.

Disconcertingly, the short game, upon which Harrington's world-beating exploits were founded, let him down yesterday.

He's had his problems putting in recent years, leading the 41-year-old to take-up the belly putter in May, but it's not often you hear Harrington admit he felt uncomfortable around the greens, particularly out of the bottomless rough which swallows any shot even a few yards off target.

MOMENTUM

Harrington (below) has missed the cut in three of his last four events as he struggles to make birdies and his hopes of building early momentum at Oak Hill were soon scotched yesterday as he failed to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker at the short 11th hole, his second.

He actually played a lovely shot out of the sand, his ball trickling just wide of the lip before stopping less than three feet past the cup.

It was the subsequent missed putt which hit him like a blow to the solar plexus and required caddie Ronan Flood to deliver a few words of encouragement as they walked to the next tee.

They didn't work right away as Harrington promptly hooked his 5-wood left of the fairway and under the trees at this 372-yard par four. Yet he recovered nicely for par and then converted a neat birdie four at 13 after hitting a superb approach to two feet.

Yet Harrington's joy would be short-lived. After missing the fairway right at 14, he hit his next through the back and misjudged his belly-wedge from the fringe and his ball ran through the green and off the front. Bogey!

Double-bogey followed at the 181-yard 15th, where he missed the green way left off the tee; failed with an attempt to blast his ball out of the long grass into the bunker and then missed the green with his next, eventually sinking a decent seven-foot putt for his five.

Rare respite came in the shape of a two-putt par at the facile 16th hole before bogeys at 17 and 18 sent Harrington through the turn in five-over-par.

Though he made birdie at one, luck deserted the Dubliner at seven, when a decent tee shot was blocked out, he caught overhanging branches with the approach and he failed to save par from just off the front of the green.

It certainly appears as if there'll be little consolation for Harrington at Oak Hill after a miserable year at the Majors.

A first round of six-over-par 78 led to a missed cut at the Masters, while he mustered just six birdies over 72 holes both at the US and British Opens.

Currently 128th in the FedEx standings, he's three outside the field for the first of the PGA Tour's lucrative end-of-season play-offs, the Barclays, as next week's final qualifying event, the Wyndham Championship approaches.

If he doesn't make the FedEx play-offs, Harrington's prospects of climbing from 77th in the world rankings into the elite top 50 will be diminished, along with his prospects of making a solid start to the Ryder Cup qualifying campaign.

After his equal-worst first-round score at the PGA Championship since he shot seven-over 77 in his first at Winged Foot in 1997, Harrington must feel as if the walls are closing in on him.

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