Saturday 18 November 2017

Double agony for Harrington as the sun goes down

Padraig Harrington, of Ireland, tees off
Padraig Harrington, of Ireland, tees off

Karl McGinty at Merion

'PICK it up and get out-a here, Paddy!'

That advice, shouted loudly by one loud American spectator the moment the siren signaled the end of play after an eventful second day at the US Open, neatly caught the mood of many standing by Merion’s 15th green.

Sadly, Padraig Harrington failed to heed it. Instead of marking his ball and coming back in the morning, the Dubliner elected to play his four foot putt for bogey.

When he missed it left, with more of a spasm that a smooth stroke of his new belly putter, Harrington ensured an impressive day’s work ended with a crushing double-bogey six.

 It dropped him to four over, five behind joint tournament leaders Phil Mickelson and Billy Horschel, with three holes of his second round to play.

For the second day in succession, an Irishman appeared to take the wrong option in the glooming.

Rory McIlroy missed from inside five feet and made bogey at 11 moments after the hooter sounded on Thursday night and the Ulsterman admitted: “I wanted to get it in. It ended up being the wrong decision.”

Clearly, Harrington didn’t want to sleep on that tricky little putt. The way he played it offered disconcerting insight, perhaps, into his decision to take up the belly putter.

Still, one stroke of misfortune does not a tournament make and, with 39 holes still to play on the East Course, Harrington’s still within striking range, especially if he plays as well as he did for the majority of his 15 holes yesterday.

Harrington was two under for his round and just one-over for the championship after back-to-back birdies at seven and eight … even after a bogey at 11, he was very much in the reckoning but that double at 15 was a boneshaker.

After hitting his tee shot into the rough there, the Dubliner got a flyer lie, approach sailing over the green and coming to rest under the low, drooping branches of a tree, not far from two white out-of-bounds posts.

There was little option but to declare it unplayable and after a penalty drop, Harrington played an exquisite pitch with his lob wedge that passed within a hair’s breadth of the cup. It was a great shot, followed by a dubious call.

McIlroy and Tiger Woods, who’d joined Harrington on three-over after completing the final seven holes of their first round 73’s yesterday morning, both made a clear declaration of intent with even par rounds of 70 on a difficult course set-up in the afternoon.

Billy Horschel, 26 and winner of his first PGA Tour title at last month’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans, matched the low round of the championship, shot by Mickelson on Thursday, with the second round 67 which propelled him to one-under.

The iconic Californian held onto a share of the 36-hole lead courtesy of a birdie at 18 and a second round 72.

Mickelson, who arrived back in Philadelphia in the early hours of Thursday morning after flying overnight from his daughter’s eighth grade graduation in Southern California, was afforded a Saturday lie-in thanks to a generous gesture from Dustin Johnson and the group playing ahead of them yesterday.

Johnson and his companions stood aside in the fairway to allow Keegan Bradley tee off on 18 before the hooter. This meant Bradley, Mickelson and Steve Stricker could finish and not have to come back at 7.15 am to complete their final hole.

Talented amateur Kevin Phelan, 22, leading Irishman after his outstanding first round 71, found the going tougher yesterday afternoon.

Phelan, who lives with his family in just outside Jacksonville, Florida, but is a well-established and highly-regarded member of Waterford Castle,  had three bogeys and a double-bogey at nine to lie five over for his round and six-over for the championship with the back nine at Merion to play.  

He was still one inside the projected cut, which will see the leading 60 and ties through to the final 36 holes once the second round is completed this morning.

Graeme McDowell (76 77, +13) and Darren Clarke (80 75, +15) both missed the cut.

At the top of the leaderboard, England’s Justin Rose (69) and Luke Donald (72) were tied with Stricker on even-par in the clubhouse, one shy of Mickelson and Horschel.

Ian Poulter, one-under through 14 holes of his second round, and remarkable Taipei amateur Cheng Tsung Pan, two-under at the turn, also lay on even-par for championship overnight.

Irish Independent

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