Monday 27 February 2017

Trying times for faltering Padraig

Karl MacGinty

NO man cancels a family holiday without good reason.

The gravity of the situation facing Padraig Harrington as he tries to arrest his slide down golf's world ladder is best illustrated by his decision to postpone a vacation he had booked in the Bahamas this week to play the Wyndham Championship for the first time.

The Dubliner tees it up at Sedgefield Country Club today in a last-ditch attempt to make the 125-man field in next week's first FedEx Cup play-off, the Barclays, which, if he makes it, will be his fourth tournament in a row and seventh in eight weeks.

This punishing stretch of events has been made necessary by the Irishman's freefall to world No 74 -- a drop of 51 places this year.

Should he not make it into the FedEx play-offs, his prospects of picking up rankings points over the next two months will be very limited indeed.

Next month's KLM Open at Hilversum and the Dunhill Links on the first weekend of October are the only two obvious engagements for Harrington.

Come what may, he won't play next week's Johnnie Walker in Gleneagles and is highly unlikely to go to the Omega Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre, a course which does not fit his eye.

So Ireland's three-time Major champion probably would require a victory in Holland to boost himself back into the world's elite top 50 in time to allow him take up an invite to Tiger Woods' end-of-season points-fest, the Chevron Challenge, before the mid-September deadline.

Harrington is eligible for all four of golf's grand slam championships for at least the next couple of years after winning the US PGA, his third Major in 13 months, in August 2008, but his options of making the World Golf Championships and prestige invitational events like the Chevron will disappear if he doesn't get back into the upper echelons of the world ranking.

Making it into the FedEx Cup play-offs is of critical importance to Harrington. According to PGA Tour projections, based on last year's FedEx points model, he needs to finish in the top 12 on Sunday to be certain of playing in the Barclays, though a placing in the top 30 seems likely to suffice.

At least the classic Donald Ross course at Sedgefield Country Club is not as punishing as Atlanta Athletic Club, where Harrington finished a disappointing tied 64 on 11-over in last weekend's PGA Championship.

Yet Harrington still must find a dramatic upturn in form and confidence if he is to take full part in an anticipated birdie-fest in North Carolina, and he still awaits an opportunity to do remedial work on his swing with new coach Pete Cowen.

Others equally determined to boost their flagging FedEx Cup prospects include Harrington's playing companions today, Paul Casey and Justin Leonard, plus yips victim Ernie Els, who lies 190th, ahead only of Boo Weekley in the US putting charts, and another multiple Major-winner Angel Cabrera.

Meanwhile, Miguel Angel Jimenez is the bookies' favourite to take full advantage of local knowledge and win this week's Czech Open on 18 holes made up of nine holes from each of the two golf courses he designed at the Prosper Golf Resort in Ostrava.

Of the six Irish entered, Dubliner Peter Lawrie certainly found Prosper to his liking last season as he forced his way into a three-way play-off, which Sweden's Peter Hanson won to clinch his Ryder Cup place.

Wyndham Championship,

Live, Sky Sports 3 8.0pm

Czech Open,

Live, Sky Sports 2, 3.0

Irish Independent

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