Sport Golf

Monday 25 September 2017

Padraig Harrington’s window of opportunity shattered

Padraig Harrington of Ireland plays his tee shot on the fifth hole during the final round of the HP Byron Nelson Championship at the TPC Four Seasons on May 18, 2014 in Irving, Texas. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Padraig Harrington of Ireland plays his tee shot on the fifth hole during the final round of the HP Byron Nelson Championship at the TPC Four Seasons on May 18, 2014 in Irving, Texas. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

William S Callahan

IN a week of intriguing about-faces in Dallas, Padraig Harrington rediscovered the Midas touch with the putter which established him as a three-time Major champion and ambled into a social arena where he had vowed never to tread.

Harrington's proud announcement on Saturday that he had written his first tweet came as a surprise to those who for years heard him insist he felt little inclination to converse with millions of “strangers” on Twitter.

Yet having also witnessed the Dubliner in recent days overcome the foibles which for so long blighted him on the putting green, the clear message from the HP Byron Nelson Championship was never to say never where Harrington's concerned.

The occasional message has appeared on the 42-year-old's Twitter page for a couple of years, though not composed by the man himself.

“I'm a bit scared of Twitter,” Harrington candidly admitted, adding: “I did send my first personal tweet this week.”

Amusingly, that ‘first personal tweet' featured a picture of a shattered window, accompanied by the text: “500 reasons not to practise in your hotel.”

It was followed by the hashtags, ‘TBT', which means truth be told, and ‘Arnold Palmer Invitational’, suggesting the damage had been done at Bay Hill in March.

As any veteran of hitting golf balls in hotel rooms will attest, the cardinal rule is first to draw the heavy curtains, something which a man of Harrington's undoubted experience in this field is unlikely to forget.

Any doubts about the authenticity of this tongue-in-cheek posting on Twitter were dispelled during yesterday's final round at the TPC Four Seasons Resort as Harrington smashed a succession of wild tee shots deep into trouble during a mind-numbing final round of four-over 74.

After impressively forcing himself into contention over the first 54 holes, Harrington struggled to find a fairway or, by extension, hit a green in regulation yesterday as he plummeted into a share of 22nd on four-under.

Just four of 14 tee shots came to rest on the short grass as the Irishman's hopes of a first win in 69 months on the world's major tours went out the window.

Instead, American Brendon Todd (28) coolly closed out his first PGA Tour victory with a sweet 66. He won impressively by two strokes on 14-under in his 77th start.

Blazing

After doing well to make bogey after hitting his tee shot into the water at four, Harrington followed a smart 18-foot putt for birdie two at five by almost blazing his drive off the planet on his way to a double-bogey six at the next.

He rekindled hopes of a first top-10 finish since January's Volvo Champions in South Africa with a facile two-putt birdie at seven but back-to-back bogeys at nine and 10 put even that target beyond his reach.

Harrington hit the flag and then the cup with a 58-yard pitch as he made another birdie at 11 but fell back once again with bogeys at 14 and 15.

In contrast, his playing companion, 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir (44) broke free of years of injury-riddled frustration as he clinched second on 12-under with a closing 67.

Still, Harrington could see bright rays of hope after posting three successive

rounds in the 60s for the first time since the 2012 Scottish Open. After missing the cut in six of 10 outings on the PGA Tour this year, it was massively encouraging on those first three days to see him chip and, especially, putt like the Major champion of old. In spite of yesterday's implosion, Harrington at last has hard evidence that his ‘A' game still is there.

“I know it's there,” he insisted on Saturday evening. “My short game hasn't been so strong (in recent years) and I see that turning around.

“The long game has been there over the last year. So I feel every week like it might be my week, but it just hasn't been happening. It isn't easy when things aren't going well for you out there and it's frustrating, but you have to keep it going.”

Harrington's victory prospects lay like shattered glass around his feet at TPC Four Seasons yesterday but his hopes of redemption have been strengthened.

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