Neck injury leaves Harrington feeling frustration at what might have been
THE will of the people was powerful but, in Padraig Harrington's case, the flesh was weak.
The mystery recurrence of an old neck injury yesterday morning denied Irish golf's greatest war horse any chance of a victory for which he and, it seemed, all of Cork yearned.
The thousands standing behind the fairway ropes were unaware of Harrington's injury, though it defied a wide array of treatments in the run-up to his final round.
"Before I went out, I had an anti-inflammatory, heat, laser, acupuncture, release therapy and some chiropractic adjustments, so I was late onto the range after having more than an hour of treatment," he explained.
Not that he considered withdrawing. "I'd have played on one leg and with one arm if I had to," insisted Harrington.
"This is something that used happen me regularly but I've worked hard to minimise its effects and it hasn't occurred for a few years," explained the three-time Major-winner, whose past neck troubles were traced to a bulging disc on his C5 vertebrae.
"Happily, when it happened today, it didn't spread as badly as it can do," added Harrington, who expects the injury to clear in days, allowing him tee it up in the French Open on Thursday week, followed by the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen, then The British Open at Hoylake.
"I was sort of washing out of impact, that was the worst part of it," he said, explaining this caused him to miss several fairways. "It pinched a little on the backswing but at impact I couldn't hold my neck, head and torso in position."
As his final round stalled with three-putt bogeys at the second and third holes yesterday, it was easy to imagine Harrington's putting was a pain in the neck.
He backed-off twice before missing a four-footer on two and failed to hole from 30 inches at the next but he insisted he was troubled more by a series of missed fairways.
Yet Harrington bluntly dismissed any suggestion of a return to recent putting woes after signing for the 69 that left him tied 14th (worth €27,114) on eight-under with, among others, Gareth Maybin, whose own tournament, rich with promise after a 65 on Friday, petered out with an even-par 71.
"I don't think I'd a bad day (on the greens)," he insisted. "After leaving one short on the first, I thought 'the greens are a little slower today', then ran it by on two and three.
"I read the greens great, putted really well, I hit a lot of putts that ran at the holes this week. Much as I might have missed putts, I'd no mysteries out there."
In fairness, he had 27 putts yesterday.
"There was some good stuff this week. I liked what I'm working on at the moment. As usual on a Sunday evening, I'm a lot clearer than I was on the Monday." Injured or not, hope still springs eternal," Harrington concluded.
A sweet closing 66 clinched Michael Hoey a share of eighth (worth €39,700) and his fourth top-10 of the season, which satisfied the Ballymoney man in his earnest quest for more consistency this year.
After missing a nightmarish 22 cuts in 26 tournaments since finishing 10th at last year's Irish Open in Carton, Peter Lawrie rekindled his confidence with a share of 33rd at Fota (€15,040), sealed with a final-round 69.
Darren Clarke hit just three of 13 fairways yesterday and eight in all at the weekend as round of 73 and 72 tied 58th (€5,600) with Dubliner John Kelly, on one-over.
Winner of the Irish Region Order of Merit last year and a noted teaching pro at St Margaret's, Kelly was seething with frustration after a final-round 75 that did no justice to the quality of his golf.
West Waterford prospect Gary Hurley's head was high as he flew to Newcastle last night with a crack six-man Irish amateur team to contest this week's Brabazon Trophy (English Stroke Play) at Seaton Carew.
The only amateur to make the cut and, in contention on four-under after Friday's fabulous 66, Hurley showed splendid resilience during and after a gruelling 81 on Saturday.
He then drew one of the biggest roars of the final day by sealing his 73 with a 25-foot birdie putt on 18 that thrilled the busloads from Waterford who'd followed his every step since 6.45.
"It was a fantastic week and a great learning experience," said Hurley (21), a Paddy Harrington Scholarship student at NUI Maynooth, who counted two splendid eagles and 14 birdies in the eight-over total that placed him 73rd.