Harrington ends Players on a high note with super 67
Padraig Harrington was far from the madding crowd which thronged the upper end of the Players Championship leaderboard but he showed in his final round that there’s plenty of life in the old dog yet.
The Dubliner had scrambled to make the cut at level-par overall and ruled himself out of making any significant impact on the eventual destination of the top prize in this ‘fifth Major’ with his Saturday 75.
But TPC Sawgrass was basking in glorious sunshine and 84 degrees (F) temperatures with hardly any breeze when he embarked on his fourth round.
Harrington went on to finish sunny side up by shooting eight shots better than the previous day with a five-under-par 67, leaving him three-under overall for the tournament.
Most pleasing of all, apart from his five birdies, was the quality of his tee-shots and distance control on approaches which were essential in delivering a bogey-free 18 holes.
Harrington missed only three fairways and hit all the greens in regulation.
That was quite an achievement on this notoriously difficult-to-tame layout and reflected Harrington’s pre-tournament confidence in the work he has done on his game since the Masters.
In fact, he looked forward to the tournament play as a relaxing break from his customary dedication to hitting thousands of golf balls in practice.
After completing his preparations on Tuesday and Wednesday at Sawgrass, Harrington commented to his many followers on Facebook: “I am very happy with how I have hit the ball over the two days.
“The work I have done has definitely helped my long game and my chipping and bunker play is getting back to the good old days. I’m looking forward to playing and seeing how it all holds up in a tournament situation.
“I like the course and have had very good weeks here, but that was before they made changes a few years ago.
“Since then I have performed poorly. This would be a good week to change that,” he said.
Harrington was as good as his word yesterday and his closing 67 is a great confidence-booster as he looks ahead to his next tournament, the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow which starts in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Thursday.
Birdies on holes 3, 4 and 6 enabled the Dubliner to turn in 33, and two more of the feathered variety came his way on the par-4 11th, and the par-4 12th.
Graeme McDowell, meanwhile, sparkled early on with a birdie three on his first hole, where he hit a nine-iron to 13 feet and holed the putt.
He stayed level-par from there until the sixth hole where he snatched another birdie.
On the short eighth, he dropped a 13-foot putt for one more birdie before a bogey six on the ninth left him out in 34 – two-under for the round and the tournament.
After that it was a case of ‘steady as she goes’ on the back nine with eight pars and a bogey six on the 16th for 71 and a tournament finish at level-par 288.
At the start of play yesterday 29 players were within five shots of the ten-under-par lead held by Chris Kirk.
Tiger Woods, however, wasn’t threatening the leaders as he finished his tournament with a level par 72, that included a triple-bogey seven on the par-four 14, to finish the week on three over.
Kirk has won three times on the PGA Tour prior to the Players, but had a horde of hungry golfers chasing him as he attempted to maintain his grip on the leaderboard.
Among them was his former University of Georgia team-mate Kevin Kisner, 31, who finished his third round at nine-under par. Kisner and Justin Thomas, who started yesterday at eight-under par, two behind Kirk, made their debut at the Players this week. The record shows that the scales were weighed against Players Championship novices.
In the 40 years since the Players was inaugurated, apart from Jack Nicklaus who won the tournament in its first year (1974), only Hal Sutton in 1983 and Craig Perks (2002) have won the event as first-timers. The youngest winner of the event was Adam Scott in 2004, and the oldest champion was Fred Funk, aged 48, in 2005.