Weather gives Harrington hope of Texas resurgence
Published 21/04/2016 | 02:30
Padraig Harrington, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson are a trio of Major champions seeking to ignite their 2016 campaign in the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio.
Mickelson, one of the pre-tournament fancies for the Masters, missed the cut at Augusta, as did Els, while Harrington failed to qualify for the first Major of the season.
The three 40-somethings bring a wealth of experience to an arena which had been turning into the playground of men in their 20s, although that trend is changing.
Of the 16 PGA Tour tournament winners so far in 2016, nine have been in their 30s, so what chance one of the elder statesmen this week?
Texas offers a chance, particularly with the rain and wind forecast which is likely to make for relatively heavy conditions. That could suit a player of Harrington's calibre who can grind it out with the best of them.
The Dubliner has played nine events on the US circuit so far this season, missing the cut twice, most recently two weeks ago in the Shell Houston Open.
Harrington expressed his disappointment at that performance, saying he felt he got caught up too much in technique and that his short game suffered as a result.
He does, however, like the recent work he has done with Pete Cowen, who also coaches Masters champion Danny Willett.
Over the last fortnight, Harrington worked on grooving a tweak to his swing which essentially is about getting his club-face stronger at address and throughout the swing, thereby giving him a stronger and more penetrating ball flight.
He also hopes that short game practice will tune up his work on and around the greens.
That Honda Classic win last year enables Harrington to ply his trade on the PGA Tour without worrying about losing his card in 2016. At 118th in the FedEx Cup rankings he knows all about the need to push forward in the next few months, and playing Texas, which has a prize fund of $6.2m (¤5.5m, $1.16m for the winner), offers a prime opportunity to push forward.
The holder, Jimmy Walker (37), showed the benefit of experience when battling his way to victory last year, defeating Jordan Spieth by four strokes.
Walker lives in Boerne, Texas and loves that the tournament is a home fixture for him.
"It's always good to be home, it's good to be in Texas and get to sleep in your own bed. Kind of nice. The golf course is in great shape. I know we've gotten some rain and weather the last couple of days. Hopefully it stays away the rest of the week," he said.
Branden Grace, winner of the RBC Heritage last Sunday, tees it up at San Antonio before taking a week off. The South African's maiden PGA Tour victory has opened up new vistas for him as a member of the Tour and he will expect to contend again this week.
Americans such as Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson and Patrick Reed, present a formidable challenge to the international players.
Just four non-USA players have won this tournament since 1970: Nick Price (South Africa) in 1992, Steven Bowditch of Australia (2014), Scotland's Martin Laird (2013) and Adam Scott of Australia (2010).
Meanwhile, with the main European action taking place in Shenzen, China, where Michael Hoey and Paul Dunne are involved, Ireland's competitors in the European Challenge Tournament, the Red Sea Egyptian Challenge in Suez, had mixed fortunes.
England's Jordan Smith set a blistering pace with an opening round 63, nine-under par.
Rory McNamara was the best of the Irish with a 69, for three-under. The other Irish first round scores were: David Carey (70), Chris Selfridge (70), Alan Dunbar (71), Gareth Shaw (71), Brian Casey (73), and Gavin Moynihan (74).
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Valero Texas Open
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