Sunday 18 February 2018

Harrington struggles to find form as short game goes down the drain

Karl MacGinty

Padraig Harrington's PGA Championship challenge almost went down the pan before he'd even hit a golf ball.

Ireland's three-time Major winner made his start time on the Highlands Course yesterday morning with only minutes to spare after he'd been caught short on his way to the tee.

After a frantic search, Harrington eventually found relief in a port-a-loo in a TV compound by the 18th green ... and then rushed back to join playing companions Tiger Woods and Davis Love III on the 10th tee.

"I had to go to find a toilet," said Harrington when asked about his tardy arrival. "You can't find any toilets out there. I had to leave the course three times today. I don't know what the story is. Wherever they are, they are well hidden."

Given the searing hot weather in Atlanta, competitors at the US PGA Championship have to drink several litres of water in an effort to keep themselves hydrated during each round.

Even as Harrington swung into action at 8.30 in the morning the temperature was already 27C and rising. The Dubliner certainly looked hot and a little flustered as he carved his opening tee shot way right into the towering pines.

Despite a splendid punched shot off the pine needles to the back of the green, Harrington failed to save par when his 40-foot downhill putt rolled nine feet past the cup and he missed the one back.


The tone had been set for a frustrating first round 73 which left Harrington 10 shots off the record pace set by Steve Stricker and with a lot of work to do if he's not to miss the cut for the third time at the Majors this season.

As this week is Harrington's last chance to make the FedEx Cup play-offs -- he's currently five places away from the top-125 who qualify for the Barclays Championship in a fortnight -- his schedule for the next two months will hinge on today's performance.

Harrington's usually reliable short game was not at its best yesterday. He performed tentatively on ultra-quick greens, missing several short putts for birdie and par, and admitted: "Two very poor wedge shots cost me bogeys."

He'll have to find his old flair on and around the greens to have any chance of making the weekend.

"The greens were as quick as I've seen greens on a Thursday morning and I was tentative all day," he admitted. "I could have done with holing a couple of putts for a few birdies here and there to keep a bit of momentum going, but I struggled on the greens that way.

"Apart from a couple of missed putts and those two poor wedges, I hit plenty of good shots out there, but never really got anything going confidence wise or momentum wise."

"It's only going to get tougher tomorrow afternoon. The greens are going to be faster again and a little bumpier and there is going to be a little bit of wind. Today was the day to get your better score in.

Harrington set up a tap-in birdie four at 12 with a superlative shot out of a greenside bunker and was a tad unlucky at 13, where his tee shot zipped through the fairway into a tricky downhill lie in the Bermuda rough. He hit his approach high on the face and the ball fell short into a bunker.

Another bogey came at the challenging 255-yard 15th, where Harrington failed to get up and down from just short right of the green. He turned in three-over after hitting his five-wood into a fairway bunker at the threatening 18th, which played 491 yards off a forward tee yesterday.

Forced to lay-up in front of the lake fronting the green, Harrington then pitched to 10 feet and missed the putt for par. He dropped further shots at one and eight before rolling in a 15-foot putt for a morale-boosting birdie at nine.

Irish Independent

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