Saturday 24 February 2018

Padraig Harrington holds nerve to survive halfway trial

Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington

William S Callahan

TRUE GRIT! Padraig Harrington needed to hole a six-and-a-half-foot putt for par on 18 at Riviera Country Club yesterday to be sure of breaking a nightmarish sequence … and he made it.

A two-over-par 73 in the second round of the Northern Trust Open ultimately would be good enough to see Harrington comfortably through the cut for the first time this year on one-over par ... but it was touch-and-go as he stood over his ball on that final green.

If Ireland's ailing three-times Major champion stoked-up his confidence with last December's long-awaited victory at the Indonesian Open, three missed cuts in his first three events of 2015, in Phoenix, Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach were crushing.

He shot a quadruple-bogey eight at 18 for a second round 78 at Scottsdale, got within three strokes of the lead on Friday at the Farmers with an eagle three at 13, his fourth, before nosediving down the leaderboard and out of the tournament that day with a seven-over 79.

STRICKEN

A triple-bogey seven at 18 on the Monterey Peninsula last Saturday then ensured he'd would miss the 54-hole cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Not for the first time in recent years, Harrington (above) seemed stricken by a fatal attraction for golf's Madame La Guillotine.

So there was a nagging sense of deja vu at Riviera yesterday, even if the 43-year-old was relatively comfortable in 17th place overnight after a one-under-par 70 on day one at the Northern Trust Open

It eased a tad when he went within a whisker of eagle three at the first, Harrington's 23-foot left-to-right putt just kissing the left lip before leaving him a tap-in birdie.

But ghouls arose again as he made bogey out of the trees at the second then three-putted for another from 49 feet at the fourth. They faded when Harrington holed from eight feet for a nice birdie at five and he made a fine 12-foot par-saver at seven but howled anew at his bogeys at the eighth and the signature par four 10th holes.

Breathing space came at 12, where he polished off a sweet birdie two from 15 feet, and was lost at 13, when Harrington pulled his drive into trouble on the left and then missed a five-footer to save par.

At the last, he hit his approach 22 feet above the hole and, as his ball trundled more than six feet past, few could bear to look.

Except Harrington, who tucked it away to break a string of four missed cuts stretching back to November and squeeze through for only the third time in eight events in this wrap-around PGA Tour season. Upon such small triumphs, redemption is built.

Ryan Moore held the early clubhouse lead on five-under after his second round of 68. However, Nick Watney, who'd held the overnight with Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen, Daniel Summerhays, John Hahn and Derek Fathauer after their 66's on Thursday, sped to seven-under in the early stages of his second round.

Peter Lawrie, meanwhile, jokes he's got his 'Coke habit' under control. Yet there's no shortage of fizz in the Dubliner's golf.

Lawrie used drink "litres" of Coca-Cola each day and reckons an 18-month form slump that cost him his European Tour card began when he went 'cold turkey' and completely cut out his favourite drink in June 2013.

Back on three or four cans a day and playing once again with assurance, Lawrie carefully navigated a safe passage around the tight and potentially treacherous golf course at Delhi Golf Club this week and into contention at the Hero Indian Open.

In a three-way tie for ninth on three-under after following-up Thursday's 69 with a solid 70 yesterday, Lawrie was seven behind leader, SSP Chawrasia of India. Should Lawrie come to terms with the pace of DGC's heavily-grained and subtly sloped greens this weekend, he could contend for his first top-10 on Tour since the 2013 Irish Open at Carton House.

With Rory McIlroy and Paul McGinley prominent among those supporting his requests for sponsor's invites, Lawrie is playing his sixth event of the season in India and has a spot in next week's Joburg Open.

COMFORTABLY

Gareth Maybin, also trying to make his way without a full card, had just one prior outing in 2015, last month's South Africa Open. So the Ballyclare favourite deserves credit for making the cut comfortably on even-par after a polished second-round 70.

Inevitably, ring rust contributed to the two rounds of 73 that cut short Waterford youngster Kevin Phelan's first tournament of the year on four-over. Damien McGrane, runner-up in the Indian Masters here in 2008, shot disappointing back-to-back 74s.

Chowrasia (36), who recorded his two previous European Tour wins in his homeland, went bogey-free through the first 36 holes, posting meticulous rounds of 65 and 67.

Hero Indian Open

Live, Sky Sports 4, 7.0am

Northwestern Trust Open

Live, Sky Sports 4, 6.0pm

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