Saturday 21 April 2018

Harrington suffers yet another late nightmare

Karl MacGinty in Fancourt

ON and on the nightmare goes ... where it stops, nobody knows!

Least of all Padraig Harrington, one suspects, after the Dubliner became embroiled in a haunting version of Groundhog Day on The Links at Fancourt yesterday.

For the second time in 24 hours at the Volvo Champions, Harrington looked ready to burst out of the doldrums but then simply imploded down the stretch.

Harrington had been polishing off chances like the Major winner of old virtually all afternoon, holing out from 13 feet at 15, his fifth birdie in eight holes, as he swept to within one stroke of the lead.

Then the 40-year-old hit the wall that seems to surround him these days, dropping four shots in the final three holes for a heart-rending level-par 73.

Harrington three-putted from 12 feet for bogey at 16; dropped another shot at the short 17th and then ran up a calamitous seven at the par-five closing hole, a particularly wounding blow after his double-bogey at 18 on Thursday.

Instead of snapping at the heels of leader Branden Grace entering the weekend, the Dubliner was eight off the pace in a tie for 15th on four-under with British Open champion Darren Clarke, US Masters winner Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els and English prospect Tom Lewis.

"Not a great finish, was it?" he grimaced. "Thought Thursday's was bad, eh?"

"I was feeling good going into the last few holes," said Harrington. "I was thanking my lucky stars, thinking maybe I'd go one or two better than the first round without having played as well."

If he'd set up that bogey at 16 by blitzing his first putt six feet past the hole, Harrington was unlucky at 17, where his smooth nine-iron off the tee inexplicably flew the green seconds after Luis Oosthuizen pitched short of the putting surface with the same club.

Yet Harrington admitted he "made a hames" of the last, where he took two to get out after driving into deep rough on the left and then three-putted from distance for the second day in succession.

"I need to have a big weekend now, whereas if I'd finished eight or nine-under, I'd be right in there threatening for the weekend."

Given his victory at last weekend's Joburg Open, this Grace certainly is not a 'Bottler'.

But the 23-year-old South African will be taking nothing for granted on such a potentially treacherous track, evidenced by the 76 posted by Nicolas Colsaerts yesterday following the Belgian's stunning course-record 64 on Thursday.

In contrast with Harrington, Clarke finished off his five-under- par 68 with a flourish, tapping for birdie after rimming-out with a wonderfully deft five-yard chip from the fringe.

"I played really nicely and hit it pin-high all day long," Clarke said afterwards. "Definitely the rust is coming off. I'd a huge horseshoe there at the last, but hardly missed a shot."

Asked if he suspected his strict new fitness regime had made the taxing climb up the final hole any easier, Clarke said: "It's certainly not as bad as it would have felt a month ago, that's for sure."

The 43-year-old Ulsterman has sworn off the drink and after a light lunch, accompanied only by a glass of coke, he headed straight for the gym.

Michael Hoey polished off a sweet two-putt birdie from 25 yards at the final hole of a second-round 72, which helped convince the Ballymoney man he can make serious inroads on the 35-man field at the weekend.

Volvo Golf Champions,

Live, Sky Sports 3, 11.0

Irish Independent

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