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'The most enjoyable round of golf I've had in a long time' - Harrington and Lowry savour final round at Kiawah Island

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Padraig Harrington of Ireland and Shane Lowry fist bump after Harrington played his tee shot on the 17th hole during the final round of the 2021 PGA Championship held at the Ocean Course of Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Padraig Harrington of Ireland and Shane Lowry fist bump after Harrington played his tee shot on the 17th hole during the final round of the 2021 PGA Championship held at the Ocean Course of Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Padraig Harrington of Ireland and Shane Lowry fist bump after Harrington played his tee shot on the 17th hole during the final round of the 2021 PGA Championship held at the Ocean Course of Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Pádraig Harrington turned back the clock alongside pal Shane Lowry and produced a thrilling Sunday charge for his fourth Major before they caressed top five finishes in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.

As Rory McIlroy struggled almost every aspect of his game and closed with a 72 to finish tied 50th in the clubhouse on five-over par, it was veteran Dubliner Harrington (49) who threatened to set the leader a formidable target as he and Lowry played with the joy and abandon of one of their regular chipping contests.

Performing like a man half his age, Harrington mixed an eagle and four birdies with two bogeys to roar to within three shots of the lead with four holes to play.

A bogey at the 15th dashed his chances and as he parred home for a 69, he could be happy at least that Lowry “halved” their personal battle when he birdied the 16th and matched his 69.

It meant they tied for fifth in the clubhouse on two-under, clinching the first top 10 for multiple Irishmen in a Major since McIlroy won the Open at Hoylake in 2014 and Lowry and Graeme McDowell tied for ninth.

“I will say, that was probably my most enjoyable round of golf I've had on the golf course in a long time,” Harrington said. “It's amazing when you play with a friend, it definitely helped both of us relax and just play golf and both of us played really well. We both could have been quite a few shots better.”

He immediately ruled out thoughts of playing another Ryder Cup - “I'm too long in the tooth now at this stage, sweating through five rounds of golf and all that goes with it.”

But he doesn’t dismiss the dream of a fourth Major, even if his putting is a major handicap at this level as he heads for his 50th birthday in August.

“Yeah, we all dream it can happen and we push for that, and it keeps me getting up in the morning,” he said. “Keeps me practicing. So this does add a bit of confidence that, yeah, I'm not too far away. A lot of my major wins came after me seeing some good stuff and being able to build on that, and I do see some good stuff in this week.”

Harrington knocked in a seven-footer for eagle at the second and a five footer at the third before clawing back bogeys at the fourth and fifth by making a 15 footer at the seventh and a three footer at the ninth to turn in 33, moving into the top seven on two-underwith nine holes to go.

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He’d been looking for a chance on the back nine in a Major since The Open in 2015 and with the leaders mixing birdies and double bogeys in their opening holes, a miracle looked possible when Harrington followed missed chances from 15 feet at the 11th and 17feet at the 13th with a magical, chip-in birdie from 20 yards at the 230-yard 14th.

It put him four-under for the day and within three shots of the lead on three-under.

But his title chances were dealt a massive blow when he failed to get up an down from a waste bunker at the 15th and then failed to birdie the par-five 16th, where playing partner Shane Lowry made birdie to move alongside him on two-under.

“Shane as we know is a big-time player and likes playing big golf courses on the big occasion,” Harrington said of Lowry’s chances of making his team.

“Yes, he likes the wind. There's a quality about him; he wouldn't stand on a tee box and fear anybody. There’s nine guys there at the moment, but if you want to get a pick, you're going to have to impress because there's plenty of guys; I seem to have an abundance of players in that running for those three picks.

"You've got to think six, seven players who could be in the running, and you've just got to impress.

“So he did a good job today. He certainly did himself no harm and we'll see how the next couple of months go.”

As for Lowry, he could regret a cold week in the greens but he also knows he’s got two more Majors and an Olympic Games to qualify automatically for Harrington’s team.

“I'm going to go away from this weekend feeling what if, but that's a great feeling to have, feeling like I was close to having a great chance this week,” said Lowry, who missed a six footer for birdie at the last and walked away pleased he impressed the skipper and accrued more Ryder Cup points.

“This is another good week towards it. It's always good to play well in front of him under the gun because I play a lot of golf with him, practice rounds, but for him to see me in competition was pretty nice, as well. I've got a lot of golf to play between now and then.”

As for Harrington, he could only marvel, adding: “When Paddy chipped in on 14, I was like, ooh, Paddy has got a chance here.
“I was kind of trying to cheer him on and play my own game, but honestly playing with Paddy today was one of the best rounds of golf I've ever had. It was so much fun.”

He added: “He hasn't lost it, has he. He's still the ultra competitor. You know, he chipped in on 14 and then he bombed a drive down 15. I was like, wow, if Paddy can make one or two on the way in, he's got a good chance here. Yeah, he's 50 in August, so Godhelp those guys on the Senior Tour.”


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