Sport Golf

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Shane Lowry lauds Padraig Harrington's true grit

Offaly ace and Bradley take 'inspiration' from dramatic exploits of Honda Classic hero

Padraig Harrington celebrates his Honda Classic win with his caddie Ronan Flood (left)
Padraig Harrington celebrates his Honda Classic win with his caddie Ronan Flood (left)

Karl MacGinty

Home is the hero, Padraig Harrington, but his career-changing victory at The Honda Classic was the talk of Doral yesterday, with Keegan Bradley neatly summing up the his redemption as "an inspiration to us all".

So 'inspired' were Shane Lowry and his caddie Dermot Byrne by Harrington's 16-foot putt on 18 to force extra-time at PGA National on Monday, their roars rattled the windows and even some of the patrons in the hotel bar at the Trump National resort.

"It's one of the best stories in golf for quite a while," said Lowry. "I mean, I played with Padraig at Pebble Beach and he won't mind me saying he wasn't playing that great. He was driving it pretty poorly but was getting it around. So to go and win on a course as tough as that really shows some character. Sure that's Padraig, isn't it," said the Clara man.

"I remember last year, people at home would be asking about Padraig, is he gone, what's the story with him? As I told them, it wouldn't surprise me if he did anything."

Lowry and a friend, Birr native Stephen Grant - the former Shamrock Rovers winger now playing Florida's mini golf tours - had dined with Harrington last Sunday night at the Thai Kabuki in West Palm Beach and helped him forget a harrowing afternoon on the golf course.

Having come to know and appreciate the 'real' Padraig Harrington since turning pro in 2008, few were more satisfied than Lowry to see the three-times Major Champion clinch his place in next month's Masters when he's scheduled to make his own Augusta debut.

Asked yesterday at Doral, venue for this week's Cadillac WGC, if the Dubliner needed cheering-up on Sunday night, Lowry replied: "No, absolutely not. We'd arranged to meet Padraig for dinner and when we saw his score, Stevie said: 'God, will he want to go to dinner now?' I said of course he will. Padraig's not like that and, of course, he was fine.

"He said he'd missed a few putts and never talked about winning or anything. He was just Padraig, the same as ever."

Harrington is renowned for being able, in the words of one of his favourite poems by Rudyard Kipling, to "meet triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same."

In precisely the same way that he's overcome daunting career issues since his most recent Major victory at the 2008 PGA Championship, Harrington came back three times from the brink of disaster during those final 18 holes at the Honda.

As the drama of Harrington's final 11 holes began to unfold , Lowry and caddie Byrne were heading down Interstate 95 to Miami on Monday and their debut this week at The Cadillac.

"We were raging we didn't stay but we wanted to get down here for a practice round.

"We got here in time to see him playing his second shot into 16. We were in the bar in the hotel and you'd want to hear the roars of us when he holed that putt on 18 to get into the playoff because I couldn't believe what he did on 17," said Lowry.

He referred, of course, to Harrington's agony-to-ecstasy recovery from that double-bogey out of the water that cost him the lead at the 71st hole.

"Padraig played 18 alright but your man (Daniel Berger) obviously had a good chance there with his length. I knew when he missed (the fairway with) his tee shot on 18, it was Padraig's to win. So what a shot he hit on 17! It is career-changing for him, fantastic.

"He's been great to me," added Lowry. "I'm just lucky I'm from Ireland and get to hang out with Padraig, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy.There's three of the best golfers that have played the game in the last 20 years!"

Along with the Masters, Harrington's also won his place at two of this season's World Championships, The Bridgestone and HSBC, plus The Players at Sawgrass in May.

He's not eligible for this week's Cadillac and yet to qualify for the World Match Play or US Open. But having won The (British) Open, twice, and US PGA, he's a fixture in those two Grand Slam events.

With his card once again filling with the game's elite events and given his sudden elevation to 82nd in the world, it's not difficult to envisage him climbing into the top-60 by May's deadline for the US Open.

For the next few days, however, Harrington will relish his success during a precious visit home after five consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour.

He returns to action next week at Arnie Palmer's Invitational. After that, he plays three more events in the run-up to the Masters - honouring tournament invitations issued when he needed them most.

It's a noble gesture and it remains to be seen what impact playing nine of the 10 previous weeks will have on his performance at Augusta.

Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy got over his missed cut at Honda, beating a world class field and stunning playing companion Ernie Els with the quality of his golf during his 63 at Monday's Seminole Pro-Member Invitational. "It was breathtaking," said Els.

Irish Independent

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