Harrington upbeat as 'sharp' putting seals top-10 finish
HOPES of a first US Tour victory in five years by Padraig Harrington were snuffed out at TPC Southwind, but there was no bellyaching from the Dubliner.
Instead, Harrington left Memphis for this week's US Open at Merion with a real spring in his step after a morale-boosting performance on the greens at the FedEx St Jude Classic.
Harrington was four shy of the tournament lead in Memphis after a sensational 65 on Saturday which featured a virtuoso display with his controversial new belly putter.
While the Irishman closed out his week with a one-over-par 71 to tie 10th on five-under, Phil Mickelson built on an equally spectacular third-round 65 with a 67 yesterday for a share of second on 10-under with Tennessee favourite Scott Stallings.
Yet Harris English (23), from Georgia, was utterly unshakeable as he surged to his first Tour victory by two strokes, courtesy of ice-cold birdies on holes 16 and 17 of his final-round 69.
Still, Harrington could afford to be upbeat. "My game is definitely on the up, there's no doubt about it," he said.
"I feel like I'm better in control of my game and my swing. The short game's sharp and so is the putting, which has been my Achilles heel over last year. Since I've gone to the belly putter, it has definitely improved."
Remarkably, Harrington had 14 single-putt greens on Saturday, a solitary three-putt coming after an aggressive effort from 25 feet for birdie ran eight feet past the cup.
He put himself behind the eight-ball early yesterday, hitting successive tee shots into deep rough on the short fourth and par-four fifth, leading to bogey on both holes.
That long putter was seen to good effect once again on 11, where Harrington sank a 26-footer for birdie two, followed immediately by bogey after he pull-hooked his drive at 12.
However he was wreathed in smiles at 17 after a monster effort from 43-feet vanished like a magician's rabbit for birdie.
Then his two-putt par save from 60 feet at the last encapsulated a weekend of hope for Harrington.
Damien McGrane also got hot with the putter at the Lyoness Open at Diamond Country Club in Austria.
Mind you, his short game needed to be sharp during the final-round 69 which lifted the Kells man into a share of 14th place on eight-under (worth €14,400).
Winner Joost Luiten of Holland defied a difficult day with his own putter, which he needed to use 34 times during yesterday's 71, to keep Thomas Bjorn two at bay after splendid rounds of 64 and 68 over the weekend by the Danish veteran.
Gareth Maybin slipped several rungs into a share of 36th after a double-bogey six at the final hole of his fourth-round 70 dropped him to four-under (yielding €6,900). David Higgins also closed with 70 to tie 41st on one-under (earning €4,900).
After leading the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors through 36 holes, Des Smyth had to be satisfied with a share of eighth (worth €7,806) on 10-under after back-to-back rounds of even-par 73 over the weekend at DeVere Mottram Hall.
Smyth finished 10-shy of England's Paul Wesselingh, who romped four clear with a sensational nine-under 64.
Philip Walton was 13th (banking €5,368) on six-under after his 71 yesterday.