Monday 18 December 2017

Harrington ready to roll up his sleeves and scrap for US Open place

Padraig Harrington hits an approach shot during the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth
Padraig Harrington hits an approach shot during the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth

Karl MacGinty

With three Major titles on his curriculum vitae, Padraig Harrington ranks among the privileged elite of modern professional golf.

So it speaks volumes for the struggling 42-year-old Dub that he's prepared to roll up his sleeves at Walton Heath today and join around 100 other hopefuls in a 36-hole scrap for one of a dozen places available for next month's US Open at Pinehurst.

Only once in his career in amateur and professional golf has Harrington had to pre-qualify for a tournament – that was 15 years ago at Panmure golf links near Carnoustie, where, after 36 holes over two days, he clinched a spot in the 1999 British Open.

The Irishman, who last month missed the US Masters for the first time since his debut in 2000, is joined by one other Major-winner Jose Maria Olazabal in today's shootout.

Harrington cannot recall ever having to play 36 holes in one day as a professional, but that is what he must do today on the feted Old and New Courses at Walton Heath.

He made the one-hour drive around the M25 from Wentworth shortly after signing for a final-round 73 which left him tied 61st on five-over-par at the BMW PGA Championship.

This was a disappointing conclusion to a tournament which began with such promise as Harrington opened with a splendid 69.

After needing just 25 putts on Thursday, Harrington's uncertainty of recent years reappeared on Wentworth greens, which often bamboozle him in May.

"Bad putting," he replied emphatically when asked what lay behind his playing of the final 54 holes in seven-over.

"I putted well on the first day and then had three terrible days, really bad.

Declining to blame the putting surfaces on the West Course, he added: "I think it was me."

Harrington revealed last Thursday that he'd recently recovered from the yips, saying that five good rounds out of his previous seven had begun the process of rebuilding his confidence.

When asked if Wentworth had undone that good work, he retorted: "No, it's only a week. Sometimes you'd love golf to be as logical as that, but it's not."

Did the yips return? Again Harrington said: "No! I just didn't putt well. The greens were slow and I started decelerating on the putts. Maybe my stroke started getting a bit long early in the week."

Yesterday's early finish gave Harrington an opportunity to follow-up on practice rounds at Walton Heath last Monday and Tuesday with further preparatory work before dusk. He also was conscious, however, of the need to conserve energy for today's marathon.

"I'm aware you've got to get as much rest throughout the day if you must play 36 holes," explained Harrington.

"Eat well on the course, have a very light lunch, that sort of stuff. Thank heaven we'll play in twoballs. That'll save up to an hour a round.

"Hopefully, fatigue won't be a factor ... that I'll play well enough, I'm still focused down the stretch," added the Dubliner, who'll be joined by fellow Irishmen Michael Hoey, Tour rookie Kevin Phelan and yesterday's runner-up Shane Lowry in today's line-up.

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