Sport Golf

Friday 23 February 2018

Padraig Harrington's season ends in record low

William S Callahan

TO Victor Dubuisson, the spoils ... but for Padraig Harrington, the final round of the Turkish Open brought yet another long and fruitless season to a frustrating conclusion.

Harrington slipped to 68th in the Race to Dubai, his worst finish on the European Tour since he turned pro 18 years ago, leaving just three Irishmen, Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy, in the top 60 and eligible for this week's finale, the DP World Tour Championship.

Dubuisson was almost speechless with delight and excitement after wrapping up his first victory on the European Tour.

The Frenchman (23) looked not unlike a little kid on Christmas morning as he struggled to take in all his 'goodies' for beating an elite field which included three of the world's top five, Tiger Woods, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose.

Along with a whopping €848,930, more than five times greater than his previous biggest pay-cheque since turning pro in 2010, Dubuisson leapt far enough inside the world's top 50 to be almost certain of an invite to next April's US Masters.

A place in the other three Majors and next year's four World Golf Championships, will also be his should the Cannes native maintain his status among the elite.

INTENSE

The way Dubuisson's game held up under intense pressure yesterday afternoon suggests that should not be a problem.

Most eyes at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal Resort were on Woods, his playing companion Stenson and the Swede's hot Race to Dubai rivals, Rose and Ian Poulter. Yet the greatest challenge to Dubuisson came from Jamie Donaldson as the Welshman posted a closing 63.

The 2012 Irish Open champion dramatically grabbed a share of the lead with a hole-in-one at the 180-yard 16th – this silk-smooth swing with his seven-iron earned Donaldson one million air miles from Turkish Airlines.

Dubuisson, leader by five overnight but stalled on even-par for his final round after a bogey at 14, then bravely took up the gauntlet.

He edged clear of Donaldson with a bounce-back birdie at 15, gave himself precious breathing space by holing an enormous putt for another at 17 and picked up his third shot in four holes at 18 for a fighting 69 that saw him finish two ahead on 24-under.

A final-round 65 eased Rose into a share of third with Tiger (67) and thrust him past McDowell to second in the Race to Dubai. The US Open champion is €213,467 behind leader Stenson, entering this week's €5.98m European finale.

McDowell, who skipped Turkey, is €321,799 behind the Swede and €108,332 shy of Rose.

Should he finish third or better and ahead of Stenson, Rose and Poulter next Sunday at Jumeirah Golf Estates, McDowell will succeed Rory McIlroy as Race to Dubai champion.

Poulter lies just over €22,000 behind McDowell in fourth on the Money List. A tie for fifth with Raphael Jacquelin in Turkey boosted his earnings over the past three weeks to €1.06m (including a controversial 20pc bonus to those who played the first three Final Series events).

Stenson putted too poorly during back-to-back 69s over the weekend to deserve any better than a share of seventh in Belek. With just €353,906 separating the top four on the Money List, his place in history as the first winner of the FedEx and Race to Dubai in the same season is far from secure.

McIlroy took last week off but Lowry, who is 35th on the money list, posted splendid rounds of 65 and 67 at the weekend in Turkey to take a share of 44th on nine-under-par.

Sadly, Harrington's bid to force his way into the field in Dubai fizzled out as lack-lustre rounds of 71 left the struggling 42-year-old Dubliner in 50th on eight-under, nine shy of the top-10 finish required.

Well outside the world's top 100, Harrington plans an extended winter break and when he returns late in January, he'll face a race against the odds to make next year's first two World Championships, the Masters, US Open and, by extension, the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

Damien McGrane, called up for Turkey as a late reserve, ended up 82nd in the Race to Dubai with €342,165 after a closing 75 left him joint 70th on two-over.

Meanwhile, Darren Clarke tied 65th on four-over at the McGladrey Classic. He had five bogeys and just one birdie in his final-round 74 at Sea Island. Chris Kirk (28) clinched his second PGA Tour win on 14-under with a 66.

Masters champion Adam Scott romped to a four-stroke victory over American Rickie Fowler in the Australian PGA. A final-round 67 at Royal Pines moved him to 14-under after Fowler closed with 68.

Irish Independent

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