Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

St Jude Classic: Padraig Harrington eyes brighter days

Padraig Harrington

Tiger Woods is not the only top golfer who has been battling a knee issue lately.

But while Woods is out of next week's US Open Padraig Harrington feels ready to return in Memphis today — and no doubt he will be hoping history repeats itself.

The last two majors the American missed were The Open and US PGA Championship in 2008 both of which were won by Harrington.

First, though, the Dubliner needs to prove he is back to full fitness at the FedEx St Jude Classic after missing the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth two weeks ago.

Not only that, Harrington also badly wants to stop a slide down the world rankings which sees him outside the top 50 this week for the first time since 1999. He was third behind Woods and Sergio Garcia just over two years ago.

“I don't want to drop out of the top 50, but what can I do?” he said recently. “It's not through lack of trying and I feel my game's in great shape. I think I'm in a position to go forward.

“I'm not panicking about dropping out of the top 50 and it's not in itself a big issue — there's a big summer ahead and I'm very happy with my game, what I'm doing and where I'm at. I'm doing the right things that will lead to results.

“You go through periods where no matter how hard you try to win you just don't. And you go through periods where you can't do anything wrong. It's a tough game and you just have to be patient.”

As he says himself, it has been a strange season so far.

Harrington started it with a 65 in Abu Dhabi and then was disqualified when he did not spot his ball had moved a fraction as he picked up his marker.

He then finished outside the top 30 in his next four events, but since then has gone 10th, missed cut, eighth, two missed cuts (including The Masters), ninth and another missed cut at the Players Championship.

His return after a month out comes in an event which last year finished with two fellow Europeans, Lee Westwood and Robert Karlsson, fighting it out in a play-off.

Westwood won his first title in America for 12 years at the fourth extra hole, but for both of them it was something of a shock to find themselves in sudden death at all. American Robert Garrigus led by three with one to play — like Jean Van de Velde at Carnoustie in 1999 — but drove into a lake, took a triple bogey seven and went out at the next hole.

He, Westwood and Karlsson have been re-united for the opening two rounds at the same TPC Southwind course.

There are not enough world ranking points on offer for Westwood to reclaim the world number one spot off the resting Luke Donald even if he wins again.

Karlsson, meanwhile, has yet to play in Europe this year. After taking a PGA Tour card and moving his family to the States he applied for a green card and then discovered that while the process was going through he could not travel overseas.

The Swede had to pull out of the Volvo World Match Play in Spain and the European Tour's flagship event at Wentworth.