Golf

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Georgia weighing heavily on Harrington's mind

James Corrigan in Orlando

Published 22/03/2014|02:30

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ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 21:  Padraig Harrington of Ireland shields his eyes from the sun as he lines up his putt for birdie on the second green during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge on March 21, 2014 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
Padraig Harrington of Ireland shields his eyes from the sun as he lines up his putt for birdie

Padraig Harrington usually would be satisfied, but not this time. The Irishman is in severe danger of missing his first Masters this century, and the image of himself sitting on his Dublin sofa is getting him down.

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Indeed, it was difficult not to believe that Harrington, a three-time Major champion, is resigned to watching the season's first Major at home after hearing his lament following yesterday's second successive 70 here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

As he said, Georgia is "weighing heavily on my mind".

"Normally, after getting to four-under by the halfway stage and being on the brink of the top 10, I would be saying I am building up lovely for the Masters," Harrington explained.

"Yet the problem is I'm not in the Masters and I won't be unless I win. Today, I thought I could get myself into the tournament at six, seven or eight-under. I played well enough to do that but I need a bit more."

Harrington needs to win, either here this weekend, or in the fortnight before Augusta, at the Texas Open or at the Houston Open.

PRODUCE

"I would not normally play this many events ahead of a Major but I am trying to give myself every chance," he said. "Yet I know it's tough to win out here any given week, let alone produce a win on cue."

The 42-year-old should be applauded for honestly acknowledging the likelihood that, for the first time since 1999, he will not get to drive down Magnolia Lane.

Harrington is outside the world's top 150 and his only win since the 2008 USPGA came on the Asian Tour in Malaysia four years ago.

Unless his form changes dramatically, there will be an end to the proud streak that has seen him play in every Major this century apart from the 2005 Open at St Andrews, when the death of father led to his withdrawal.

Except Harrington does not see it like that.

"Pride would have nothing to do with it, as these guys are good," he said. "And I don't particularly care for streaks. I just care for the fact that I may not qualify for the Masters deservedly on merit.

"If I'm sitting at home, I'll be feeling pangs of anxiety knowing I'm not there in Augusta with a chance. If you're not in it you can't win it. But I'd still watch every shot. I love the Masters."

With the greens firming up and a capricious breeze, Bay Hill was a stricter test than on Thursday, when Adam Scott took advantage of the soft conditions caused by a Monday downpour to equal the course record with a 62.

On the first, Harrington hit an eight-iron from 176 yards to four feet; on the 196-yard seventh his tee-shot came to rest within nine feet; and, after a two-putt birdie on the par-five 12th, his highlight came on the 16th.

From 221 yards, Harrington put it within 10 feet and converted the eagle putt. Despite a dispiriting bogey at 18, where he failed to get up and down from the bunker, there was enough to suggest his game is coming around.

"It'd be a good sign if I was preparing," he sighed.

In the absence of injured title-holder Tiger, Scott yesterday continued to give an uncanny impression of Woods circa 2000 as purred seven clear in the clubhouse on 14-under with a ludicrously easy-looking second-round 68.

Though he bogeyed the last for the second day in succession, this time with a sloppy three-putt, Scott (31) appears invincible, provided he overcomes a touch of flu.

Graeme McDowell spent the afternoon too close to the cut mark for comfort after dropping three shots in the final two holes of an ugly and frustrating five-over 77.

This was the second-worst of 22 competitive rounds at the Portrush native's local Tour stop in Orlando ... G-Mac opened with an 80 in 2011.

A hot putter made all the difference during Thursday's first-round 68, but McDowell pulled too many tee shots left and into trouble yesterday to make further headway as the course firmed up under a glaring sun. He failed to make a solitary birdie in the second round.

Though McDowell failed to convert chances from nine feet at 16 and six and missed a couple of par putts from inside eight feet at 13 and nine, his last, his putter still saved him on several occasions.

Like at 18, where he drove left and out of bounds, but still holed from 23 feet for an unlikely bogey five. Or at three, where he made another 20-plus footer for a miracle par four after hitting his tee shot into the water.

McDowell racked up his double-bogey six at eight after going left off the tee into trouble. He hit his second into the right rough, found the front greenside bunker in three, then failed to get up-and-down.

He laid up to wedge range from the left fairway trap at nine, made the green in three but missed the eight-foot putt for par, leaving McDowell on one-over and dissatisfied after 36 holes at one of his favourite stomping grounds.

Darren Clarke will have the weekend off after following up Thursday's 75 with a dispiriting 78 yesterday to finish on nine-over. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL,

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