Harrington primed for challenge at Pebble
Padraig Harrington is ready to play the Pebble Beach Pro-Am this week despite a neck injury which disrupted his practice routine and performance in the opening two events of his 2017 campaign.
Originally, the three-time major champion had targeted a run of five successive events starting with the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines two weeks ago to launch his post-Christmas bid to qualify for The Masters.
He had not bargained for the persistent neck problem, and after two missed cuts he has to carefully assess his options.
The good news is he plays Pebble Beach. Last night, Harrington said: "There's no improvement yet, but I'm still playing this week. I'll review it for LA." (Genesis Open).
The Dubliner got no satisfaction at the Waste Management Open, which was won on Sunday by Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, now a three-time champion in the 2016-17 wraparound season.
Harrington hopes for a better outcome at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the beautiful Monterey Peninsula, to be followed, if he remains fit enough, by the Genesis Open at Riviera and the Honda Classic at PGA National in Florida.
Traditionally the post-Christmas period has not yielded great returns for Harrington, at least not in four of the past five seasons.
His best results from his first five PGA Tour outings were - 2012: tied-7 at Pebble Beach; 2013: tied-9 at the Waste Management Open; 2014: tied-27 at Pebble; 2016: tied-6 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
The season left out?
That was 2015 where in his first five tournaments he went: missed cut, missed cut, missed cut, tied-56 and ... WINNER.
Yes, that was his Honda Classic play-off victory over Daniel Berger two years ago. The Portuguese Masters title on the European Tour last year made 2016 another good year for Harrington.
That's why he can never be written off, but he needs a solid four rounds and soon, preferably at Pebble Beach, to get a foothold on the season.
Shane Lowry, by contrast, bounces into the tournament knowing he is very close to contending if he can find some comfort with his putting.
Lowry dropped to 33rd from a starting 12th place on Sunday in Phoenix. He could not buy a putt, but has to be encouraged by his performance "out the pitch" as they might say in GAA circles.
Seamus Power is the other Irishman in the star-studded Pebble Beach field this week, while Paul Dunne and Asian Tour competitor Niall Turner play the Maybank Championship in Kuala Lumpur on the European Tour.
Paul McGinley makes his Champions Tour debut in the Allianz Championship at Boca Raton, Florida. The 54-hole tournament starts on Friday.