Wednesday 21 February 2018

Harrington hopes to pick up pieces ahead of Ryder Cup deadline day

Karl MacGinty

IT'S head-scratching time once again for Padraig Harrington's admirers after the Dubliner came up short yet again at the Majors.

Dr Bob Rotella, who knows more than most about what goes on inside the Irishman's mind, perhaps had the answer the other day when he shrugged and said: "Maybe it's this Ryder Cup thing."

There's not a lot wrong with Harrington's swing, as he'd proved on Friday evening, landing four birdies in whistling 30mph winds to rekindle his US PGA Championship prospects before darkness brought his fog-delayed second round to a halt after six holes.

Yet Harrington lost his rhythm in balmy sunshine on Saturday morning, eventually missing the cut for the third time at the Majors this season after an horrible double-bogey six from the middle of the final fairway at the Straits Course left him one outside the pale on two-over.

A photographer moving across his line of sight at the back of the 18th green initially forced Harrington to step back off his approach shot.


Yet instead of waiting for the cameraman to trudge out of his fragile focus, Harrington elected to play the 214-yard shot with his hybrid and, not for the first time in his 36 holes, caught it fat -- dumping his Titleist into the hazard well short of the green.

Over the next few weeks, we'll know for sure if his parlous position in the Ryder Cup standings hampered Harrington, who already appeared to have difficulty bearing the weight of his reputation as a three-time Major champion in the Grand Slam arena this season.

Indeed, it would come as no surprise if the Dubliner won one of the FedEx Cup play-offs, starting with next week's Barclays at Ridgewood Country Club.

Harrington's decision not to try and play his way into the European Ryder Cup team at the Czech Open this week or the final qualifying event at Gleneagles next week (The Barclays doesn't count), and instead rely on a captain's pick is controversial.

Yet Dr Rotella's suggestion that the pressure of trying to make the European team might have weighed down on him at the US PGA offers clear evidence of Harrington's desire to make it to Celtic Manor.

Asked yesterday if he considered Harrington's position different to that of Ian Poulter, who received a pick from skipper Nick Faldo for Valhalla though he didn't try to play his way into the team at Gleneagles, Darren Clarke said: "I don't think it's quite the same."

Why not? "Because there's three of them," added Ryder Cup vice-captain Clarke with a knowing grin, referring to the decision of wild card contenders Justin Rose, Paul Casey and Harrington to play Barclays instead of Gleneagles.

Yes, there's strength in numbers.

Clarke's putter let him down once again yesterday as a final-round 73 left him just inside the top-50 at the US PGA and he's now planning a two-week break to complete his family's move into their new home in Portrush.

US Open champion Graeme McDowell is planning a month off to recharge batteries drained by his feats at Pebble Beach.

Like Harrington, McDowell and Shane Lowry also failed to make the halfway cut at Whistling Straits.

Irish Independent

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