Harrington drops back to earth
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON fell back to earth with a bang yesterday, as his dual hopes of snatching a Ryder Cup “wild card” pick and of claiming a first tour title of the season took a hammer blow after he followed his opening round 64 with a second round 75 which dropped him back to the fringes of contention in the Barclays Championship – the first tournament of the US Tour’s season-ending FedEx Cup series – as American Nick Watney and Spain’s Sergio Garcia jointly assumed the midway lead.
The 40-year-old Dubliner haemorrhaged shots from the start, a string of three successive bogeys from the 10th (his opening hole) turned into a stretch of five dropped shots in his opening eight holes.
To his credit, Harrington dug in and managed to stop the rot. He reeled off seven successive pars before finally finding a birdie – his first of the round – on the Par 5 seventh, limiting the damage with a 75 for 139, three-under-par.
Harrington, who most likely needs a win if he is to sway Europe’s captain Jose Maria Olazabal and earn a “wild card” pick for next month’s Ryder Cup match against the United States in Medinah, had a horrendous time on his front nine.
In Thursday’s first round, Harrington covered the same stretch in just 29 strokes but yesterday reached the turn in 40, before embarking on a salvage mission that at least enabled him to lurk on the fringes, shots behind Watney and Garcia, heading into the weekend.
Garcia, who secured his Ryder Cup place with a win in last week’s Wyndham championship, signed for a 68 to add to his opening 66.
As Tiger Woods battled his way into contention in shooting a 69 for 137, despite starting with back-to-back bogeys on his first two holes and suffering a pulled muscle in his back.
US PGA champion McIlroy also recovered from a poor start, suffering four bogeys in his opening eight holes, to sign for a 73 which left him on 142.
Vijay Singh, who contended in the USPGA a fortnight ago only to fade over the weekend, showed further good from with a 67 for 135 that left him a stroke adrift of the joint-leaders. I’m playing as good as I did any part of my career. I’m hitting the ball as long. I’m hitting the ball straighter. I feel a lot of confidence in me.
“It’s just I need to get some kind of momentum going to keep me going. I thought I had it at the PGA, but I kind of let it slip there on Sunday,” said Singh.
He added: “But it’s all about how you’re hitting it, and right now I’m striking the ball good. My distance is back, and I’m literally pain-free, which makes a whole lot of difference. If you can play golf pain-free, I think you can go out there and play the way you want to play.”
Watney, hoping to influence USA captain Davis Love’s “wild card” considerations, claimed the clubhouse lead and was joined by Garcia on the 134 mark.”
“It’s been a little while since I’ve been in this position, and it feels good to be back, and I’m really excited for the weekend,” he said.
Luke Donald followed up an opening 68 with a 74 that also ended a notable steak in the play-offs as he suffered a three-putt for the first time since the 2010 Tour championship. On the second hole of yesterday’s second round Donald three-putted from 14 feet, eight inches for bogey to end a streak of 310 consecutive holes in the playoffs without a three-putt.
Graeme McDowell missed the cut after a second round 71 for 146, four-over.
Other notables to miss the cut included last year’s US Open champion Webb Simpson and McIlroy’s predecessor as US PGA champion, Keegan Bradley.
Garcia again continued in good form and had only 26 putts in putting himself into position for back-to-back wins on tour.