Harrington and McDowell hoping to slip in under the radar at Doral
Padraig Harrington: Worked on his putting ahead of this week's WGC-Cadillac championship in Florida.
He is who he is, which means that – as world number one – all eyes are again focused on Rory McIlroy heading into this week’s WGC-Cadillac championship. All of which, it would seem, could allow the other two Irishmen in the field, Graeme McDowell, who nabbed a top-10 finish in his first strokeplay event of the season in the Honda Classic, and back-to-work Pádraig Harrington, to slip in under the radar.
Harrington – somewhat fortuitously – secured his place in the limited, no-cut field at last week’s cut-off point before slipping back out of the world’s top-50, down to 53rd in the latest rankings. And, after a week-off spent mainly working on his putting and despite arriving back in Florida minus his clubs which went missing in transit, the Dubliner returns to competition on the Blue Monster course where he secured top-10 finishes on each of his last two appearances there, in 2010 (3rd) and 2011 (10th).
After suffering missed cuts in each of his last two strokeplay events, in Pebble Beach and the Los Angeles Open, Harrington’s work has centred mostly on the area of his game – putting – that has caused most concern and proven to be his Achilles heel of late.
For McDowell, though, the positives of a second top-10 finish in as many weeks has left him “very, very happy” with the state of his game. “I’ve scrambled extremely well. My bunker play’s sharp. My putting’s sharp. Everything bodes well . . . it’s early in the season, only three events in, and I’m happy with the way things look.”
McDowell, 19th in the world rankings, reached the quarter-finals of the WGC-Accenture and claimed a tied-ninth finish in the Honda behind breakthrough tournament winner Michael Thompson, who made it nine-for-zero to American wins on the US Tour so far this season. Whilst McIlroy’s rescheduled press conference at Doral tomorrow is expected to give the Ulsterman an opportunity to shed some further light on his dramatic withdrawal from last week’s Honda Classic, and perhaps more importantly, on how he has coped with the fallout of that decision.
McIlroy’s place in the field this week is not in any jeopardy, with PGA Tour regulations providing a 14-day window from the date of withdrawal to supply written evidence to support his claim of medical grounds – a wisdom tooth – for his actions. If the US Tour isn’t satisfied with his explanation, only then can consideration be given to any possible fine or suspension.
McIlroy’s press conference is due to take place ahead of the $8.5 million WGC-Cadillace at Doral tomorrow (2pm Irish time). There are only 60 players in the field, with no cut, so McIlroy – assuming he is fit to play – will have four competitive rounds under his belt for the first time this season as his sights start to move towards next month’s Masters.
Shane Lowry, meanwhile, will take a sponsor’s invite in this week’s Puerto Rico Open aware that a win in the tournament would move him into the world’s top-50 for the first time and open the door for a debut appearance in Augusta.
The ending of the RA’s and the USGA’s period of consultation on the proposed anchoring ban hasn’t stopped the European Tour from confirming its support for Rule 14-1b, which would prohibit anchoring any club to the body when making a stroke.
George O’Grady, chief executive of the European Tour, yesterday issued a statement explaining “the European Tour has been fully involved in the consultation process which ended on February 28th, and deeply value this involvement. Our members support the unique role played by the governing bodies in formulating the rules of golf.
“Additionally, virtually all of our tournament committee and player representatives support the proposed rule even though they are aware, and have taken into account, the fact that some members and especially our senior members use the anchored method.
“We understand the points put forward by the PGA Tour and the PGA of America (who represent club professionals in the United States) and respect and sympathise with their views, which are based on their experience and the evidence before them, and have been expressed with great concern for the game.”