Sport Golf

Thursday 26 April 2018

McIlroy lost for words after exit as Harrington seals miracle escape

Rory McIlroy (USA Today Sports)
Rory McIlroy (USA Today Sports)

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy missed this first cut for nine months in the Honda Classic but Pádraig Harrington still insisted he'd love to have the world No 3's ball-striking brilliance with just 40 days to go to the Masters.

The Dubliner isn't even in the field for Augusta National but as he staged a remarkable second round comeback alongside Mcllroy and Zach Johnson to survive the 36-hole guillotine, he refused to push any panic buttons over the state of the Down man's game.

McIlroy was poor around the greens and made a double and a triple-bogey in a second successive 72 to miss the cut by one stroke on four-over par.

That's no big deal as far as Harrington was concerned.

"He struck the ball well," said Harrington, who admitted he was reaching for his mobile phone to book his own flight home after starting his round with a bogey and a double-bogey to six-over par.

"Over the years people would say Rory doesn't like playing in the wind. Well, he looked well capable of doing it this week.

"I don't think either myself or Zach Johnson would mind playing golf like Rory played golf this week."

The four-time Major winner was mediocre on the greens, racking up 30 putts as he made a double bogey five at the 15th, his sixth, and a triple-bogey six at his 14th hole by trying an over-ambitious recovery from a water hazard.


"If anything, he overplayed a couple of shots," Harrington said, referring to the laser-like tee shot at the fifth that ended up in the hazard from where McIlroy tried an audacious recovery and ended up rebounding from the rock face into the water.

"He hit them too well through the wind and that happens at times. It looked like he played all the right shots."

Harrington was being kind but while he played many of the right shots himself, there were few good ones on the greens from Shane Lowry, who had 33 putts in a five-over par 75 to slip 10 shots behind leader Rickie Fowler on two over par.

The Clara man bogeyed the 10th and 11th and then three putted the 14th for a double bogey. While he recovered with birdies at the 15th and 18th, his three-over par homeward nine was disappointing as he toiled with the putter and every mistake meant a dropped shot, although he at least made the cut.

At the other end of the leaderboard, world No 5 Fowler carded a second successive 66 to lead by a stroke from Jimmy Walker (66) on eight-under par with Sergio Garcia (69) a shot further back.

A bogey-par-bogey finish for a two-under par 68 left Harrington a little deflated but having opened with a three-over 73 and then slumped to six over, Harrington wasn't complaining too loudly.

The Dubliner spent Thursday evening on the putting green experimenting with a new set-up that ended up paying dividends.

"It's hard to believe I am disappointed," Harrington, who holed 90 feet of putts as he birdied the 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th and 18th to turn in two under.

"I was reaching for the phone to change my flight as I was heading for the 12th tee," he said with a grin. "Then I forgot about it."

A change in his putting set up - he decided overnight to hover his putter higher than normal - looked to be a failure after the first two holes. Then everything changed.

"I missed one from four feet on the 10th and hit a decent second into 11 and ended up in the water and lipped out with the chip for par," he said. "Then I started holing the putts I haven't been holing for ages.

"I didn't have myself in any trouble all the way through to my last four holes when I lost my rhythm. I think I ran out of steam. Unfortunately think I was thinking of getting to the clubhouse at that stage."

Graeme McDowell ground out a 69 to make the cut on level par and give himself chance of remaining inside the Top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings who qualify for next week's WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.

Needing a decent finish there to have any chance of making the Top 64 in the world who qualify of the WGC Match Play, McDowell said he was trying to block the mathematical scenarios out of his head.

"I saw what panicking does to my game last year and it is not very good," he said. "I have just got to let it happen."

Honda Classic, Live, Sky Sports 4, 7.00pm

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