Saturday 23 November 2019

Short-putt woes to blame for Harrington’s failure to make Ryder Cup team

European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal waits to putt during yesterday's pro-am for the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club, Switzerland
European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal waits to putt during yesterday's pro-am for the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club, Switzerland

Karl MacGinty

THERE are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics ... until it comes to golf and explaining why European captain Jose Maria Olazabal couldn't give a Ryder Cup wild card to Padraig Harrington.

PGA Tour stats explain in black and white why three-time Major Champion Harrington's win drought in the US and Europe now has stretched to four years, despite huge improvements in the Dubliner's game this year from tee to green.

For all the impressive advances Harrington's made in his swing, ball-striking and wedge play in 2012, the numbers reveal how one of his former strengths, his putting, has become his most glaring weakness.

Though Harrington still ranks among the best when it comes to holing putts of five feet or more, incredibly he's almost hit rock-bottom in the American charts when it comes to anything shorter.

There are two categories covering short putts in the US Tour stats and Harrington is fourth last in one and second last in the other.

The figures make sober reading. The Irishman has sunk just 78.10pc of putts between three and five feet long in the 59 rounds he played in 16 PGA Tour events this season.

That's 107 out of 137 and the 30 par-savers or birdie-makers he's missed leave Harrington 191st on Tour in that range, ahead only of Kyle Thompson, Boo Weekley and Scott Dunlap.

tops

Louis Oosthuizen tops this table after holing 94.07pc of the putts he faced between three and five feet, or 127 of 135.

Meanwhile, Harrington's made 93.51pc of all putts of less than five feet he's taken in the same period, or 504 of 539.

The 35 he missed clearly left the Irishman at a disadvantage to the likes of Sergio Garcia, who heavily underlined the massive turnabout in his putting recently by leading this category with a 98.39pc success rate -- the Spaniard made 490 of his 498 putts inside five feet.

At 193rd in the standings, Harrington leads only Dunlap. Interestingly, of the 20 players already named for next month's Ryder Cup at Medinah, only three lie outside the top 100 when it comes to holing putts shorter than five feet -- Justin Rose (114), Graeme McDowell (121) and Lee Westwood (169).

Without wishing to over-simplify the biennial battle with the US, it's likely to come down to which team putts best on the greens at Medinah, which will be set-up to play super-fast to suit the home side.

Garcia squeezed into the team on the back of a splendid putting performance and victory at the recent Wydham Championship, while Harrington didn't make the automatic top 10 because he couldn't apply the finishing touch to a series of promising performances, especially the Masters, the US Open and the Irish Open.

The same putting problems which have confounded him on several occasions this year also made it impossible for Olazabal to choose Harrington ahead of either Ian Poulter or Belgium's first Ryder Cupper, Nicolas Colsaerts, despite the vast experience the highly respected Irishman would bring into the arena.

Explaining why Harrington has so much trouble with short putts is difficult. He insists there's nothing wrong with his technique, instead citing a penchant for second-guessing himself when reading subtle or tricky lines.

This accomplished Stackstown man has long fought a tendency to over-think, but if he does achieve peace of mind on the putting green for 72 holes, he's capable of clinching the victory which would restore his confidence and reignite his career.

Harrington celebrates his 41st birthday tomorrow by playing in a truly stellar field in the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship.

As the world focuses on the likes of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods this week (Garcia, incidentally, takes a break from the FedEx Cup fray), maybe the time is right for Harrington to make a lie of those damned statistics.

One man likely to command as much attention as the breathtaking Alpine scenery during today's first round of the Omega European Masters in Crans-sur-Sierre is Martin Kaymer.

The German, whose form has plummeted from the summit of Mont Blanc to the floor of the Dead Sea in recent times, badly needs a morale-boosting performance -- and soon -- after scraping into the European Ryder Cup side.

Second to Thomas Bjorn here last year, there's probably no better place than Crans for the former World No 1 and 2010 US PGA Champion to get some good vibrations.

The vibrations Greg Norman and fellow passengers felt as his G4 executive jet landed in Geneva on Tuesday were far from good. The nose-wheel suddenly locked at a 90-degree angle shortly after touchdown, creating havoc in the cabin as a myriad of items broke loose and took to flight.

Still, Norman, wife Kirsten, son Greg and his business manager were none the worse for the experience. The Australian, a global ambassador for Omega, plays this week on a sponsor's invite.

European Masters,

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