Monday 27 January 2020

Frigid putter ensures agony continues for Harrington

Padraig Harrington of Ireland chips onto the 16th green during the second round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla
Padraig Harrington of Ireland chips onto the 16th green during the second round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla

Karl MacGinty

THE agony continued for Padraig Harrington at Valhalla yesterday as he failed to make the cut for the 10th time in 20 tournaments this year.

Harrington played some splendid golf from tee to green during his 36 holes in the US PGA marquee group with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and had he made a 30-foot putt for eagle at the last, the Dubliner would have made the cut.

Though he made a valiant run at that one, Harrington old putting woes were all too apparent during an ever par 71 that, tantalisingly, left him one outside the pale on two over par.

The 42-year-old, who must finish in the top two at the Wyndham Championship next week to save his PGA Tour card for 2015, missed half-a-dozen putts inside eight feet, including four of five feet or less on the velvet smooth but subtle greens at Valhalla.

After making a sweet birdie out of the trees at the first, Harrington, who shot two-over 73 in the first round.  put himself back behind the eight ball as he missed two short putts for par at five and six.

Twice he followed bogey four on the back nine with a birdie at the next but Harrington then drove into the water at the par four 16th to leave himself needing eagle at the last to make it.

He now hasn’t won either on the American or European Tours since collecting his third Major title in 13 months at the 2008 US PGA, while Harrington has now failed to make the weekend in 10 of 20 Majors since Oakland Hills and in four of his last six.

While Mickelson soared into contention in a share of sixth place on six-under, courtesy of an eagle three on the final hole of his battling 67, Woods admitted he wasn’t strong enough physically to compete after missing the cut on six-over par following two rounds of 74.

Tiger arrived in Louisville at lunchtime on Wednesday and dispelled doubts about his fitness by playing the front nine at Valhalla, the first time he’d played the Kentucky venue since beating Bob May in a playoff at the 2000 US PGA.

Insisting the back spasms which caused him to abandon last Sunday’s final round of the Bridgestone Invitational was entirely separate from the disc repaired by a surgeon last March, he blandly said he’d travelled from South Florida with one intention – to win.

Yet no amount of wishful thinking was going to launch Woods into contention at a Major after just nine rounds and eight holes of tournament golf in four months.

The days when Tiger was capable of pulling off miracles are as distant as the  most recent of his 14 career wins at the Majors – that unforgettable US Open victory in 2008 when he defied a blown cruciate ligament in his left knee and two stress fractures in his legs.

Woods did a lot of grimacing during Thursday’s lack-lustre 74. The pain was caused not by his creaking back but by sloppy shotmaking, especially with his irons, and a patently rusty short game.

Tiger made just one birdie, a chip-in at 16, in round one and sank a  putt of 16 feet for only his second at 15 yesterday as he missed the halfway cut at a Major Championship for only the fourth time in his career.

For the record, the others were as an amateur at the 1996 Masters; at the 2006 US Open shortly after his late father Earl’s passing; at the 2009 Open in Turnberry and the 2011 PGA.

For the second time in three weeks in the Major Championship arena, he finished behind 64-year-old Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson, who acknowledged after missing the cut by three strokes on four-over that his 33rd US PGA would be his last.

Watson, who’ll play in April’s Masters and makes his farewell Open appearance at St Andrews in 2015, said Tiger must prove “he is free of injury and is playing well” if he’s to be given a wild card pick for next month’s Ryder Cup battle with Europe at Gleneagles.

As Woods has given no indication of entering next week’s Wyndham Championship and has not qualified for the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs, he’s not schedule to play competitively again before Watson names his picks on September 2.

Effectively, his prospects of making an eighth Ryder Cup appearance at the home of golf next month appear to have expired.

Ironically, since being named on Wednesday as one of Tom Watson’s Ryder Cup vice-captains, Steve Stricker surged into contention at Valhalla with rounds of 69 and 68 with a sparkling performance that suggests the 48-year-old may yet feature as a player in Gleneagles.

Graeme McDowell, defying the discomfort of a stiff neck, battled his way through to the weekend on the mark with a one-under par 70 yesterday. Though Darren Clarke tied with Tiger on six-over, he at least draw some satisfaction from his second round 69.

Lee Westwood got within one of McIlroy’s lead on eight under with a birdie at 10 but the Englishman then dropping four shots in four holes and was four behind the Ulsterman on five-under after rounding off a one-over 72 with a morale-boosting birdie at 18.

The problems began for Westwood when he hit his second into water fronting the green on his way to a double-bogey six at the short but treacherous 13th. There was a sense of déjà vu about his bogey five at 15 when his approach found water there too, while he three putted for another five at 16.

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