Monday 24 April 2017

Harrington blows hot and cold in battle to make top-50 return

THE long battle to win back his place in the World Golf Championship arena must continue for Padraig Harrington at The Honda Classic on Thursday week.

Currently 87th in the global rankings, Harrington needed to win or finish second in the Northern Trust Open yesterday to get back into the world's elite top 50 and qualify for next month's Cadillac Championship at Doral.

Yet after a final-round one-under-par 70 for a four-over total at Riviera Country Club, Harrington must repeat his 2005 win at The Honda on Sunday week to be certain of his place at Doral.

Ineligible for this week's Accenture Match Play in Tucson, it's vital for him play the second WGC of this Ryder Cup season.

Sergio Garcia fired off two eagles and five birdies in a stunning seven-under-par 64 to establish the early clubhouse lead on five-under as Phil Mickelson and PGA champ Keegan Bradley scrapped for the title on the golf course.

Only a couple of poor putts, leading to bogey on four and seven (his 13th and 16th holes yesterday) prevented the Spaniard from giving the top two a real fright.

Harrington's play over four tantalising days at Riviera Country Club was erratic. He endured long stretches of imprecision on Pacific Palisades, interspersed with flashes of brilliance, not least the two eagles he landed on Saturday and again yesterday on the par-five first, on both occasions his 10th hole. After a scruffy three-over 74 on a blustery, difficult opening day, Harrington had to scrap hard on Friday for the 70 which squeezed him through the cut.

Harrington then bogeyed four of his first six holes on Saturday. However, a stroke of genius at one, where he'd holed out from eight yards off the green for eagle, shone like a beacon, even if another 74 left him in the nether regions on five-over entering the final round.

Typically, after a slipshod par-four at his opening hole yesterday, the 10th, Harrington hit two fantastic shots down 11 to set up a classy chip-and-putt birdie four.

Then he missed the next four greens, making bogey at 15, before polishing off another splendid birdie at 17 and holing a phenomenal second eagle in 24 hours at the first.

His swing and long game clearly are in good order, but the closer Harrington gets to the green, the tougher it seems to get. It's really a matter of confidence.

Irish Independent

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