Sport Golf

Monday 23 July 2018

Harrington determined to maintain momentum at Sun City

 

Straight driving is a must at a track Harrington described as
Straight driving is a must at a track Harrington described as "claustrophobic"

Brian Keogh

Pádraig Harrington lightened Paul Dunne's wallet in practice yesterday but he's more concerned about banking a $1.25 million jackpot at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City this weekend.

After coming up just two shots shy of Justin Rose in the Turkish Airlines Open on Sunday, the Dubliner (47) is riding high on confidence and gunning for a 16th European Tour win that could catapult him back into the top 60 in the world for the first time since 2013.

Not even a fourth Major victory would change Harrington's legacy, but a win at the punishing Gary Player Country Club track, where he once shot 61, would put him in contention for a seventh Ryder Cup cap.

"It's a place that I have always enjoyed coming to ever since my first trip in 1997," Harrington said on his blog. "I arrived on Monday morning on the charter flight from Turkey and decided to take the day off and relax.

"It amazing how much easier it is to take a day off after you have had a good week!"

Straight driving is a must at a track Harrington described as "claustrophobic", but he showed in finishing fourth behind Rose last Sunday that he's hitting the ball straighter than ever.

"It is a big advantage to have played here before and to know how certain holes play," Harrington said. "Hopefully I can keep the momentum of last week going!"

As a sponsor's invitee, Harrington's winnings in this week's no-cut, $7.5 million event will not count in the Race to Dubai.

But like fellow Irishmen Dunne and Shane Lowry, he can take a giant step towards making Thomas Bjorn's Ryder Cup team by winning for the second time on African soil.

While Lowry failed to convert the third 54-hole lead of his career into a win in Turkey, the world No 89 comes into the event with five top 25s from his last seven starts and knows a win could turn a largely forgettable year into a memorable one. Not only could the Offaly man rise as high as 52nd in the world, a top 30 finish in the Race to Dubai would secure his place in The Open at Carnoustie while the top 20 after next week's season-ending DP World Tour Championship qualify for all the World Golf Championships in 2018.

Qualifying for those events has been a season-long goal for British Masters winner Dunne, who is 14th in the money list and poised to make that move next year.

A second win of the season would fire the Greystones star (24) as high as 45th in the world. But the elite, 72-man field features a host of players with big goals, starting with Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood.

The 26-year-old's lead is now a slender 134,838 points after back-to-back victories for fellow Englishman Rose, who is not in the field this week.

But Fleetwood knows he can move into an unassailable position with victory in the penultimate tournament of the season

"Hats off to Rosey for the way he has played the last couple of weeks," said Fleetwood, who plans to play on the PGA Tour next year.

"It's made it an interesting finish, but I could make it a lot more boring if I have a good week."

On the PGA Tour, Graeme McDowell returns to the site of his most recent win when he tees it up in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba hoping to build on his first top-10 finish in over a year in last week's Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.

Ranked 72nd in the FedEx Cup standings, the 2014 champion is joined at Playa del Carmen in Mexico for the $7.1 million event by West Waterford's Seamus Power.

Irish Independent

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