Friday 23 March 2018

Struggling Harrington in battle to make weekend

William S Callahan

FRESH from his US PGA disappointment, Padraig Harrington looks set to miss yet another cut at the Wyndham Championships after slumping to a first-round 73.

The three-time Major winner had been hoping for a good showing in Greensboro to boost his FedExCup position. He sits 129th in the FedEx Cup standings, four places outside of the qualification places for the play-offs, which begin with The Barclays next week.

However, there was precious little to be positive about yesterday as, starting on the 10th, he had three bogeys in his opening six holes.

He responded with a birdie at the par-four 17th, but any hopes of him getting back into contention were dashed by consecutive bogeys on the fourth and fifth holes. A birdie on his second last hole was of some consolation. And while a score of three-over-par wouldn't always be disastrous, the fact that he lies in a tie for 133rd out of 156 starters tells a greater story.

The early leader is Chris Stroud, who set the pace with a six-under-par 64. It would have been even better for the 31-year-old but for a dropped shot on the eighth – the penultimate hole of his round.

Stroud sits a shot clear of Sergio Garcia, Matt Jones, Robert Garrigus and Andrew Svoboda, who all carded 65s, while a superb start from Zach Johnson left him four-under after six holes.

Elsewhere, European Solheim Cup captain Liselotte Neumann may call the United States home but for the next three days, she will be in enemy territory. The Swede is looking to defend Europe's title with a first victory in America in the competition's 23-year existence.

On the possibility of recording a first win on American soil, she said: "That's why I took on this job. I like the challenge and trying to make some history here and become the first European team to win (in America)."

Neumann may have taken the safe option in appointing all-Swedish vice-captains in Annika Sorenstam and Carin Koch, but when it came to team selection, she made the bold move of picking 17-year-old Englishwoman Charley Hull – the youngest player in the event's history – after four runner-up places in just eight events in her debut season.

"Charley was on my Junior Solheim Cup team two years ago in Ireland and she was very impressive at just 15 and she's having a great year on the European Tour," said Neumann.

Solheim Cup,

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