Sunday 19 November 2017

Harrington implodes ahead of Irish Open bid

Padraig Harrington, of Ireland, tees off at the US Open
Padraig Harrington, of Ireland, tees off at the US Open

William S Callahan

IT was the send-off from hell. Padraig Harrington imploded at TPC River Highlands Connecticut, posting a nightmare 10-over par 80 in the final round of the Travelers Championship, his last event before this week's Irish Open.

Brilliant back-to-back 66s had sent Harrington rocketing into the weekend on eight-under, just two off the lead ... yet after stalling with a lack-lustre 72 on Saturday, the 41-year-old seized solid in the final round.

He hit just three fairways and three greens as he stumbled to six bogeys on his outward 41. After dropping a shot out of a greenside bunker at 12, Harrington hit his tee shot, then his approach into water as he took double-bogey seven at 13.

The Irishman then missed his fourth putt of five feet or less on a nightmare weekend as he made another bogey at 16.

THREE-PUTT

After putting the lights out over the first two rounds, he used his belly putter on 34 occasions yesterday, including a three-putt at three.

As Harrington tumbled into a tie for 72nd with Casey Wittenberg on four-over – three ahead of last-placed Lee Westwood – Texan Chris Stroud (31) and Ken Duke (44) from Hope, Arkansas, were heading for sudden death.

Stroud forced extra-time by chipping-in at the last for birdie and a round of 67 to tie Duke on 12-under after the latter's 66. Both were playing for their first PGA Tour title and Duke took the honours by hitting a brilliant sand- wedge approach to 30 inches for birdie on the second extra hole.

Across the Atlantic, Shane Lowry found the perfect pick-me-up in Munich for his 'Homecoming' this week at Carton House.

Lowry's fabulous closing 65 at the BMW International, his best stroke-play round this year, put a real spring in the Carton resident's step as he headed for the Irish Open on his 'home' course.

"All I was looking for out there was a bit of confidence for next week," said Lowry, minutes after signing his bogey-free card. "To shoot seven-under on Sunday is always good, no matter where you're lying."

After a disappointing 74 on Saturday, Lowry was never going to trouble tournament winner Ernie Els, but the Clara native left Germany last night enriched by more than the €21,700 he earned in a share of 21st on 11-under.

"That third round was very disappointing," he admitted. "I feel I tried too hard to shoot a score that would put me in contention – I was trying to be a bit too perfect, but you learn from days like that. I was just more myself today."

Lowry won the 2009 Irish Open as an amateur and would like nothing better than to perform well at Carton.

Els completed his 28th European Tour victory (and seventh wire-to-wire) by following up Thursday's 63 with three successive 69s to finish 18-under, one ahead of Thomas Bjorn, who also shot 69 yesterday.

While Els is unlikely to play again before defending the Claret Jug at Muirfield, Bjorn, Irish Open winner at Carton in 2006, will be fancied to go close again this week.

Peter Lawrie and David Higgins tied 29th in Munich on nine-under after both closed with 71s to bank €16,900 each.

Irish Independent

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