Sport Golf

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Harrington's Masters dream fading rapidly

Phil Mickelson drives off at the 10th tee in the first round of the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio
Phil Mickelson drives off at the 10th tee in the first round of the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio

William S Callahan

PADRAIG HARRINGTON'S prospects of winning a place at the Masters have shrunk even further after he made a stuttering start to the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio.

A four-over par 76 left the Dubliner wallowing eight behind early clubhouse leaders Danny Lee of New Zealand and Arizona's Pat Perez. Lee birdied four of the last five for his sweet 68.

Facing an uphill struggle simply to make today's halfway cut, it will take a miracle recovery for Harrington to achieve the victory he needs on Sunday to book his place in Augusta for the 15th year in succession.

Assuming a first US or European Tour victory since 2008 is beyond Harrington this weekend, his last chance of extending his unbroken run at the Majors to 34 will come at next week's Shell Houston Open, where, once again, it will be win or bust for Irish golf's greatest warhorse.

Harrington arrived in San Antonio confident that last Sunday's shocking final-round 80 at Bay Hill was an aberration but, when play eventually started yesterday after a fog delay of more than two hours, his struggle to come to terms with a tough course suggested otherwise.


Significantly, he played the four par-fives in four-over par, setting the tone for the day as he completed a bogey six at the second hole by three-putting from 28 feet, including a miss from 44 inches for his par.

After a near birdie at six, Harrington carved his drive way right and almost off the property on his way to a calamitous double-bogey seven at eight. He then three-putted from 55 feet for another bogey at nine before dropping his fourth shot in three holes at the 10th.

Frustratingly, he followed birdies at 12 and 17 with bogeys at 13 and 18, failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker at the last for yet another six. In all, Harrington had 32 putts.

Phil Mickelson, playing the Texas Open for the first time since 1992, also putted 32 times yesterday, including three three-putts, as he slumped to a slapstick 77 that, in keeping with the left-hander's form this year, said little for his prospects at Augusta.

Angry Graeme McDowell rushed onto Twitter to set the record straight about remarks attributed to him in a story on the official PGA Tour website and which spread rapidly around the internet and onto TV's Golf Channel.

Adam Scott and Billy Horschel also figured in the story about the decline of Tiger Woods, who has failed to make any impact so far this year as he struggles with the debilitating lower back injury which makes him a doubt for the Masters.

McDowell, who was quoted more extensively than Scott or Horschel, briefly took time out overnight from the inaugural EurAsia Cup in Kuala Lumpur to insist his comments about Tiger were "taken out of context" and "spun negatively".

The story quoted the Portrush man as saying Woods had "lost that sort of force field of invincibility around him. The aura is not as strong.

"He's still Tiger Woods, still the greatest-ever player in my opinion. I don't remember the first time I played with him but there was a real 'wow' factor. He was playing a different sport than me but guys get older. Stuff happens."

Yet in a rapid-fire sequence of five tweets, McDowell man told his 568,000 followers: "I spent 90pc of my press conference in Bay Hill last week being asked questions about Tiger, speculating about where his game is right now.

"Many of my quotes have been taken out of context and spun quite negatively. It's hard for me to comment on what happened Tiger in the early 2000s," McDowell continued. "I can only say he has raised the bar so much in the sport globally and players are so much better equipped to win these days. He seems more beatable nowadays because the players around him are better and have more belief thanks to Tiger moving the needle.

"I really shouldn't get caught up in speculation and opinion, especially when talking about TW. You set yourself up for failure," he added, concluding with the hashtag "no comment".

McDowell paired up with Jamie Donaldson to come from three holes down in yesterday's final fourballs match to beat Kim Hyung-Sung and Nicholas Fung of Asia 3&1 and complete a 5-0 first day whitewash for Miguel Angel Jimenez's team.

Welshman Donaldson and McDowell play together once again in the anchor match in this morning's foursomes session, meeting Fung and Gaganjeet Bhullar. The EurAsia Cup comes to a climax with 10 singles matches tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Ireland's Gavin Moynihan and Dermot McElroy didn't enjoy any success on the second day of the Bonallack Trophy match in Bangalore, but Europe stayed well in control against Asia Pacific as they seek a third consecutive triumph.

Moynihan and McElroy, who won both their matches on Wednesday, were the only European losers in the second fourball session, going down 3&2 to Australian duo Geoff Drakeford and Taylor MacDonald. The Irishmen won only one hole – the short 13th, where McElroy bagged a birdie two.


The Australians took the lead at the fifth when Drakeford got a birdie and opened up a three-hole advantage with further Drakeford birdies at eight and nine. After exchanges at 13 and 14 there were two halves sufficient to see the Asia-Pacific pair home. All the other European pairs won their fourballs, extending their cushion to 10-5.

Non-playing captain Andrew Morgan omitted McElroy from the afternoon foursomes. He paired Moynihan with Dane Mads Soegaard and after a tremendous battle they lost on the closing hole to the Japanese combination of Kenta Konishi and Daichi Sato.

The foursomes finished level, allowing the Europeans to retain their five-point lead at 12.5-7.5. That means they require only 3.5 points from today's 12 singles to retain the trophy.




Irish Independent

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