Sunday 15 December 2019

Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry hoping to pull away from the black hole

Padraig Harrington tees off on the 17th during Round One of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Padraig Harrington tees off on the 17th during Round One of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Karl MacGinty

SHANE LOWRY and Padraig Harrington have spent much of this year in the grip of golf's weird gravitational force.

Both Irishmen have enjoyed stellar achievement, but Harrington and Lowry are now embroiled in a grim week-by-week struggle to avoid being sucked into golf's black hole.

As they go into action today on different continents, Harrington in the Byron Nelson Championship in Texas and Lowry at the Open de Espana, they are united in their desire to break a brutal cycle of missed cuts.

The way they describe it, the Friday cut mark inexorably draws the struggling golfer like the force of gravity.

"I can't seem to get away from it," admits Harrington, who failed to make the weekend for the sixth time in 10 outings this year at the recent Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.

"I've only made two cuts (in eight events) so far this year," sighs Lowry. "I don't think I've ever been more in control of my actual golf game, but my scores are not reflecting it.

"I played with Graeme Storm in practice in China last month and he turned to my caddie, Dermot Byrne, and said: 'he'll win very soon'. Yet recently I've been feeling I can't make a cut, never mind win a tournament."

Lowry explains: "I went to Malaysia, shot 80 in the first round and then went out without a care in the world the next day and shot my best score since the Dunhill Links (66).

"In China, I felt I played really well. Then, all of a sudden, I'm standing on the 15th tee on Friday with four tough holes ahead of me and I'm on the cut mark yet again.

"If I'd been doing well, I'd birdie two of the last three and get back in the tournament. Instead, I miss out by one, which has happened so often this year, it's getting very hard to take.

"That gets in your head. You have to play through it," insists the Clara man who, like Harrington, believes if his putting improves, everything else will fall into place.

"I did more work that ever last winter, so I was expecting to do better when I started out in January," he says. "Instead, I've struggled from the word go. The game's fine. I'm just lacking confidence.

"My putting hasn't been great. Clearly, that's been letting me down. If I manage to hole-out a bit better it'll make a big difference," adds Lowry, who'll resist the temptation to consult a psychologist.

Harrington (42) explains: "You get into ebbs and flows and when you're on the downside, nothing falls into place.

"If a guy on a good run is having a bad hole, he'll chip in for his par or bogey. I've been the one who'll chip, two-putt and take seven at that stage. I'm not getting away with anything.

"The first 16 holes at Quail Hollow, I was all over the place. It was great stuff, all on a wing and a prayer and I was three-under and in seventh.

"Then I finish badly. In the space of two holes I went from looking at the leaderboard to looking over my shoulder. I can't seem to get a week where I have a nice relaxed run at it.

"Yet this changes. And when it does, I'll get two years out of a good run and it'll be happy days, all of this forgotten."

Maybe that'll happen for Harrington in Dallas, where young local hero Jordan Spieth is a hot favourite after going s close on his debut at The Masters and The Players. Or for Lowry in Gerona, where Sergio Garcia's fancied to win for the second time on the European Tour this season, following his third-place finish last Sunday in Sawgrass.

Though Adam Scott has a weekend off with his new wife in the Bahamas, he'll leapfrog Tiger Woods to World No 1 for the first time. This is because being idle drops the Aussie's rankings 'divisor' to 41 and his missed cut at the 2012 Byron Nelson drops off the radar. Unlike gravity-stricken Lowry and Harrington, Scott hasn't missed a cut since.


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