Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Harington still in the running

Padraig Harrington

Five men lie between Padraig Harrington and the top of the FedEx Cup points table, but only one of them can stop the Dubliner landing the $10m jackpot if he wins the Tour Championship in Atlanta next week.

Sadly, that man is Tiger Woods, who'll pip Harrington in the race for the FedEx Cup if he finishes outright second behind him at East Lake.

Tiger and the other four players in the top-five — Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson and Heath Slocum — cannot be beaten in the race for the FedEx Cup if any one of them wins the Tour Championship.

Yet Harrington, sixth in the FedEx Cup race after Sunday and awarded 1400 points in the re-rank, will have a reasonable chance of leapfrogging right to the top of the table if he picks up the 2500 points on offer to the winner in Atlanta.

Tiger's performance during his runaway victory at the BMW Championship last weekend establishes the World No 1 as firm favourite to win the Tour Championship for the second time in three years. Having rediscovered his confidence on the greens at Cog Hill, there should be no stopping Tiger now, especially given the highly-effective, neo-conservative route he's followed from tee to green this season.

Yet if anyone in the 30-man field in Atlanta is capable of putting Woods under enough pressure to knock him out of his rhythm, it's Harrington — and if the bubble bursts for Tiger next week, second place could be just as difficult to clinch as first.

However, if he's to contend, Harrington must get his game back in kilter.

Comparing the elite golfer's swing to a high-performance racing engine, the tiniest shift in timing can lead to truly spectacular misfires — having endured more than his fair share of those at Cog Hill, one imagines Harrington will be tempted to call in his chief mechanic, Bob Torrance, for a tweak or two before Atlanta.

Mind you, he hasn't a lot of time on his hands. A couple of corporate engagements delay his arrival home from America until tomorrow morning, leaving Harrington just five days with his young family before his return to Atlanta and action next week.

Rest is essential for every player who made it into the Tour Championship and Harrington's been under more pressure than most as he was in contention in each of the five tournaments he played in over the past six weeks. His tie for sixth on Sunday yielded a cheque for $260,625 which, incidentally, boosted his earnings since last month's Bridgestone Championship at Firestone to $1.88m.

Just how fragile the professional golfer's swing can be was illustrated by Harrington at the BMW when he revealed his had been thrown off kilter by the “angle of the practice range” at TPC Boston the previous week.

“I do have issues with different ranges at different times,” he confessed. “The first thing I do when I get to a golf course is decide where I'm going to practice for the week. The angle of the range can determine how I swing the golf club and, definitely, there was something about the angle of the range last week I didn't like; there's no doubt about it, I'm very fussy.

“I hit a number of poor shots there and every day I went to the golf course, I wasn't feeling good about my driving. I tried to fight through it but, to be honest, it was back again this week.”

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