Friday 23 February 2018

Padraig can rise again to joust with high-rollers

Karl McGinty

It's all or nothing for the high-rollers of world golf. They either hit the jackpot or crash and burn.

When Padraig Harrington cut his tee shot into the lake to the right of the challenging par-four third hole at Doral's Blue Monster last Sunday, he had to drop his ball in clinging Bermuda rough behind the hazard.

Facing a 213-yard carry across a vast expanse of water to dry land, he whipped out his five-wood and went for the green. As that second ball splashed down well short of the putting surface, leading to a triple-bogey seven, Harrington's hopes of victory died.

Had there been a rush of blood to the Dubliner's head after an eagle at the first had put him in contention on Sunday at a Major or World Golf Championship event for the first time in 30 months?

The man himself was incredulous when it was suggested he might have considered a less ambitious shot.

"I'd never have laid up," he insisted. "I had the right club and since I was hitting it straight into the middle of the green, I was forced into taking on the shot. I hit it well but it came out of the rough a little spinny. Such is life."


Strong support for Harrington's argument came from Phil Mickelson. On Saturday, he'd also driven into the lake and, from the exact same position in the rough as Harrington, Lefty drew a hybrid and smashed his ball into the heart of the green before holing out for an astonishing par.

Though it had looked risky to a less-than-average schmuck like me, this was just another shot to the multiple Major champion, who regularly puts his neck on the line and is used to wagering millions on his ability. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn't.

From Tiger down, they gamble on swing changes. In Harrington's case it was initially prompted by a combination of a nightmare final tee shot at Oakland Hills, the desire to exert less wear and tear on his body and to gain length.

The decision to invest $2m (€1.4m) in a G3 jet and stump up more than that each year to employ two pilots and to fuel, park and maintain it is another carefully considered gamble. It gives Harrington (39) the chance to play more, spend more time with his young family and relieve the stress of long-haul travel. It could stretch his career.

Harrington (left) felt neither good nor bad about his final-round 73 on Sunday, but as those swing changes bed in, he at least joined the high-rollers once again on Sunday at a World Golf Championship, albeit briefly.

Might there be light at the end of a long dark tunnel?

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