Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

Padraig Harrington’s sad decline shows no signs of abating as he shoots a 76

ROCHESTER, NY - AUGUST 08:  Padraig Harrington of Ireland hits his tee shot on the third hole during the first round of the 95th PGA Championship on August 8, 2013 in Rochester, New York.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
ROCHESTER, NY - AUGUST 08: Padraig Harrington of Ireland hits his tee shot on the third hole during the first round of the 95th PGA Championship on August 8, 2013 in Rochester, New York. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

The frustration felt by Padraig Harrington, three-time Major Champion and winner of the US PGA in 2008, was summed up in just nine words after the six over par 76 that left him out of the running at Oak Hill by lunchtime on day one.

 

“Tomorrow’s a good practice round for me. That’s it,” said the disappointed Dubliner.

Harrington insisted he’d try his best to make the cut and try and garner something out of the season’s fourth Major to give his FedEx Cup ranking a much-needed boost.

But when you’ve dined heartily at the top table in these championships, crumbs bring very little comfort. As that old cliché goes, golf tournaments are never won on Thursday but they sure as hell can be lost.

Disconcertingly, the short game, upon which Harrington’s world-beating exploits were founded, let him down yesterday.

He’s had his problems putting in recent years, leading the 41-year-old to take-up the belly putter in May, but it’s not often you hear Harrington admit he felt uncomfortable around the greens, particularly out of the bottomless rough which swallows any shot even a few yards off target.

Harrington has missed the cut in three of his last four events as he struggles to make birdies and his hopes of building early momentum at Oak Hill were soon scotched yesterday as he failed to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker at the short 11th hole, his second.

He actually played a lovely shot out of the sand, his ball trickling just wide of the lip before stopping less than three feet past the cup.

It was the subsequent missed putt which hit him like a blow to the solar plexus and required caddie Ronan Flood to deliver a few words of encouragement as they walked to the next tee.

They didn’t work right away as Harrington promptly hooked his 5-wood left of the fairway and under the trees at this 372 yards par four. Yet he recovered nicely for par and then converted a neat birdie four at 13 after hitting a superb approach to two feet.

Yet Harrington’s joy would be short-lived. After missing the fairway right at 14, he hit his next through the back and misjudged his belly-wedge from the fringe and his ball ran through the green and off the front. Bogey!

Double-bogey followed at the 181 yard 15th, where he missed the green way left off the tee; failed with an attempt to blast his ball out of the long grass into the bunker and then missed the green with his next … eventually sinking a decent seven foot putt for his five. Rare respite came in the shape of a two-putt par at the facile 16th hole before bogeys at 17 and 18 sent Harrington through the turn in five-over.

Though he made birdie at one, luck deserted the Dubliner at seven, when a decent tee shot was blocked-out, he caught overhanging branches with the approach and he failed to save par from just off the front of the green.

It certainly appears as if there’ll be little consolation for Harrington at Oak Hill after a miserable year at the Majors.

If he doesn’t make the FedEx Playoffs, Harrington’s prospects of climbing from 77th in the current world golf rankings into the elite top-50 will be diminished … along with his prospects of making a solid start to the Ryder Cup qualifying campaign.

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