Harrington, McIlroy take stock after Atlanta disappointment


THE BEST laid plans of mice and men and all that. Yesterday, within a quarter of an hour of each other, and long before the leaders checked in at the clubhouse on their day of destiny, Pádraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy had finished their play in the 93rd US PGA Championship here at Atlanta Athletic Club.

The early finishes, as much as the scores on their cards, provided evidence of how much they had performed below their own expectations in the season’s final Major.

Indeed, the disappointing performances led to both men changing their plans for the week ahead: Harrington, originally scheduled to go on a family holiday to the Bahamas, has belatedly entered the Wyndham Championship at Greensboro, North Carolina, on the US Tour in an attempt to gatecrash his way into the season-ending FedEx Cup series; while McIlroy, who had originally planned to go house-hunting in Florida, intents to spend a few days in Cincinnati, where Caroline Wozniacki is competing in a tennis tournament.

All in all, their finishes towards the bottom of the leaderboard gave a bookend to their work in the Majors. “A ‘D’ for effort,” was Harrington’s assessment of his play in the Majors this season, while McIlroy – the US Open champion – could have reason for accepting something closer to an A-plus, even if his experiences at Augusta (especially), Sandwich and, more recently in Atlanta, could be put down to being part of the learning curve.

McIlroy – who finished with a final round 74 for 191, 11-over-par, which left him alongside Harrington in tied-64th position – confessed to being “glad to be done” after his round.

Having injured his wrist on the third hole of Thursday’s opening round, McIlroy yesterday reflected that he “basically played 70 holes of this tournament not at 100 per cent. I’m looking forward to a couple of weeks off, to get rested and get ready for the end of the season.”

One thing is for sure, McIlroy won’t mind seeing the back of the Par 4 third hole on this Rees Jones bulked-up layout. It was there on Thursday that his quest for the Wanamaker Trophy was effectively stopped in its tracks before it really got going when he injured his wrist-cum-forearm after hitting into an exposed tree root. And yesterday McIlroy ran-up a triple bogey seven, when he three-putted from barely more than two feet. Of that injury, McIlroy remarked after his round: “To be honest, the swelling in the tendon went down. The pronator muscle is still a little sore and going up into the medial ligament up into the inside of the elbow – so a little bit of rest (should help).”

McIlroy intends to have a precautionary scan on the injury on his return to Belfast, after spending a few days at the tennis in Cincinnati. As for the house-hunting? That has been put on the back-burner. “There was no point in going down there for a couple of days and rushing around and trying to pick something. I’ll see how it is, maybe rent something down there for a while and choose the area that I would like to live and go from there.”

Despite the circumstances of his injury, which obviously affected him throughout the championship, McIlroy’s love of the Majors continues to grow. “I feel comfortable in these events and the win this year in the US Open will give me a lot of confidence going into them next year again,” he said.

Harrington’s disappointing weekend – when he had hoped to tie-up any loose-ends surrounding his FedEx Cup status (he is currently in 130th position, with the top-125 after this week’s Wyndham Championship heading on to next week’s Barclays championship) – led to a change of plans, with the holiday to the Bahamas cancelled in favour of adding this week’s stop in Greensboro to his schedule.

“I think I forced a little bit too much yesterday and really just didn’t get the breaks today,” said Harrington who, like McIlroy, finished with a 74 for 291. “What can I say? I can’t say I was going to shoot 66-66 on the weekend, but I probably should have shot two 70s or something like that.”