Thursday 14 December 2017

Harrington is blown off course on bad putting day

Pádraig Harrington celebrating his Open victory in 2008. Photot: Pat Murphy/Sportsfile
Pádraig Harrington celebrating his Open victory in 2008. Photot: Pat Murphy/Sportsfile

Dermot Gilleece

Like an old sea-dog vainly battling the elements, Pádraig Harrington shipped too much water to keep his challenge afloat in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open on Dundonald Links yesterday. A dispiriting, third-round 79 pushed him seven strokes behind the new joint-leaders, who include Ian Poulter.

Still, the Dubliner succumbed with a smile, which wasn't easy in fiercely hostile conditions of high winds and torrential showers. Though his new-fangled "Harrington two-step" seemed to strengthen his driving, his undoing was the blade, which has served him so well down the years.

He seemed shocked by an unlikely three-putt which cost him a bogey on the opening hole. And when another two-and-a-half-footer missed the target on the fourth to be followed by further misses on the seventh and eighth, his confidence was severely rocked.

Then came the unkindest blow in the shape of a double-bogey on the short 15th which ultimately sent him tumbling from a share of the lead overnight, to tied 23rd.

Even Rickie Fowler, normally a splendid putter, suffered in the conditions. "The hardest part is figuring out how the wind is going to affect putts," he said after a 74.

Meanwhile, heading off with the dawn brigade brought mixed blessings for Paul Dunne and Greame McDowell in their bid for qualifying places at Royal Birkdale. Though they didn't escape early morning rain, their work was pretty much completed by the time the wind began to freshen towards lunchtime.

Dunne's competitive steel was in evidence in how he recovered from a sickening bogey-bogey start. He went on to set up a fine 69 by carding five birdies on the next 12 holes. Later in the round, he managed to hole a 40-foot putt to save par on the 16th and went on to birdie the long 18th, this time with two putts from long range.

McDowell also had a dispiriting start, with a double-bogey seven at the long third. But he, too, recovered with a run of three birdies from the sixth and went on to birdie the last in an admirable 68.

Poulter, who hasn't won on European soil since the Volvo World Matchpay of 2011, handled the conditions impressively in a solid 71. "Attitude is everything," he said afterwards. "Conditions were brutally tough and it was a job simply to hold the umbrella."

A surprise at the top of the leaderboard is Callum Skinkwin. The 24-year-old Londoner clearly derived much benefit from having on his bag, Andy Sutton, who caddied for Ben Curtis when the American captured the 2003 Open Championship at Royal St George's.

Yet it is revealing that while Shinkwin has yet to register a European Tour win, his best performance last season was tied sixth in this event, albeit at Castle Stuart.

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