Thursday 22 February 2018

Harrington pondering surprise Irish PGA entry

Karl MacGinty

RYDER CUP wild card Padraig Harrington's heartbreak in Boston could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the Irish PGA Championship.

Sent crashing out of the US Tour's $10m FedEx Cup play-offs by Saturday's missed-cut at The Deutsche Bank Championship, Harrington needs a top-class competitive outing between now and next month's showdown with the US at Celtic Manor.

And it's likely to come down to a straight choice between the European Tour's inaugural Vivendi Cup in Paris from September 23 to 26 or a bid by Harrington for his fourth Irish PGA title in succession (and seventh in all) that same weekend at Seapoint.

Should Dublin's three-time Major champion opt to complete his Ryder Cup build-up at his national championship, it would be a massive boost for the Ladbrokes-sponsored event.

In all, three European Tour events are scheduled to take place before Celtic Manor but this week's KLM Dutch Open comes too soon for Harrington, who is keen to take a week's break after a lengthy stint in the US, stretching back to last month's Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.

Next week's Austrian Open is a possibility but word from the Harrington camp yesterday suggested the 39-year-old was more likely to make a straight choice between Paris and Seapoint, the stage for 72-hole tournaments the weekend before the Ryder Cup..

Ryder Cup skipper Colin Montgomerie and vice-captains Paul McGinley and Thomas Bjorn are scheduled to play the Vivendi, which will be a 36-hole team pro-am followed by a two-round shootout for the professionals.

Meanwhile, Shane Lowry, winner of the '3' Irish Open 'just over the fence' in Baltray last year, fellow Tour star Damien McGrane and local legend Des Smyth have already signed up for the €30,000 Irish PGA at Seapoint, on the course designed by Smyth and Declan Brannigan.

"I'll definitely play between now and the Ryder Cup," said Harrington after missing the cut by one in Boston. "As much as I'd like a break and one certainly wouldn't do me any harm right now, I still want to be competitive going to Celtic Manor."

Michael McCummiskey, secretary of the PGA Irish Region, said of the defending champion Harrington that "we'd welcome him with open arms" to this year's tournament.


A second round of three-under-par 68 by the off-form Irishman wasn't enough to save his bacon after a shocking 74 in Friday's opening session at TPC Boston, though Harrington insists his golf game is not as bad as his erratic results suggest. "The game is fine, it's solid," he insisted. "I'm just not letting it happen at the moment."

There might be no better place than Seapoint for Harrington to try and get the confidence boost he clearly needs before the Ryder Cup.

Rory McIlroy also cut a frustrated figure on Saturday evening at The Deutsche Bank after following up Friday's superlative 64 with a slipshod 76. Meanwhile, an untidy bogey six at the final hole of McIlroy's third-round 69 yesterday could not have contrasted more starkly with the splendid eagle the Holywood youngster landed there 72 hours earlier.

Going into today's final round on four-under, McIlroy was too far off the lead to harbour realistic hopes of a Labor Day Bank Holiday victory in Boston. Yet, unlike Harrington, the 21-year-old at least will make it into the 70-man field at this week's third and penultimate FedEx Cup play-off, the BMW Championship, in Chicago.

Tiger Woods may also be Chicago-bound after following Saturday's 65 with 69 yesterday, moving him to seven-under, five off the early clubhouse lead shared on 12-under by Phil Mickelson (67) and Aussie duo Geoff Ogilvy (65) and Adam Scott (65).

Four over after six on Friday, Woods looked like the Tiger of old as he played his next 38 holes in 12 under, including three birdies in the first seven yesterday. After bogeys at nine and 14, he finished with a touch of class, hitting a phenomenal flop shot from the back rough for birdie at 18. Two-time Deutsche Bank champion Vijay Singh gave himself another memory at TPC Boston when he holed a 5-iron from 230 yards at the par-five second for his first albatross.

  • Japanese teenager Ryo Ishikawa won his eighth career title yesterday, defeating Shunsuke Sonoda on the fourth play-off hole at the Fujisankei Classic. Ishikawa entered the final round with a three-stroke lead but finished tied with Sonoda (67) at nine-under after a final-round 70.

Deutsche Bank Championship,

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