Pádraig Harrington heads to Los Angeles chasing that elusive tour victory

Dubliner needs to be in top 50 by the February 24th cut-off point if he is to play in Doral

Graeme McDowell, whose tied-seventh finish at Pebble Beach at the weekend after a two-month break marked a decent return for the Ulsterman.

Graeme McDowell, whose tied-seventh finish at Pebble Beach at the weekend after a two-month break marked a decent return for the Ulsterman.


Pádraig Harrington has moved down the Californian coast, from Monterey to Los Angeles, aware that, regardless of how he does in this week’s Northern Trust Open at Riviera, he won’t be among those teeing up next week in the WGC-Accenture Matchplay championship in Arizona. He has already missed out on the elite 64-man field.

Although the seeding for the Accenture doesn’t take place until next Monday following Riviera, the actual eligibility positions were determined from the world rankings list released yesterday following Sunday’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

The Dubliner – ranked 133rd in the latest world rankings – has missed out, by a considerable distance, but has headed on to Los Angeles aware of the need to chase that elusive tour win if he is to have any chance of making it into another upcoming WGC event, the Cadillac Championship. Harrington needs to be inside the world’s top 50 by the February 24th cut-off point if he is to play in Doral.

Indeed, Harrington’s plight – falling outside the world’s top 50 and failing to get into the WGCs as a consequence – is proving to be increasingly frustrating. With each WGC event he is missing, Harrington is also losing out on crucial world ranking points and also falling ever farther behind in the Ryder Cup qualification tables.

Can focus
With no chance now of getting into next week’s Accenture Matchplay, Harrington can focus on the LA Open in its own right. His form on the famed Riviera course, where he has played every year since 2007, has been mixed: his best result was tied-third in 2008 but last year’s missed cut was his third in the past five years.

Harrington is one of two Irish players competing at Riviera, with Darren Clarke – now 285th in the world and recovered from his recent muscle injury that forced his withdrawal from the Abu Dhabi championship – appearing on the US Tour for the first time in 2014. The Ulsterman did, however, make two appearances in the early stage of the season back in November when he survived the cut in both the McGladrey Classic and the Mayakoba Classic.

With three of the world’s top four players – number one Tiger Woods, number two Adam Scott and number four Phil Mickelson – all giving the Accenture a miss for different reasons, the 64th and last place in the field would currently fall to Kiradech Aphibarnrat (who is 67th in the world).

Graeme McDowell’s tied-seventh finish at Pebble Beach after a two-month break marked a decent return to tournament play for the Ulsterman. McDowell has decided to skip the Northern Trust Open and will resume action at next week’s WGC-Accenture which will start a three-week stint that also takes in the Honda Classic and the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

‘Really pleasing’
In confessing to finding his form “really pleasing”, McDowell said: “My expectation levels were quite low . . . I played pretty well Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and just really made nothing on the greens. And (Sunday) the putter got a little hot. So, it was nice to kind of come back here and play as well as I have, and post some sort of a decent finish after eight weeks off.”

Rory McIlroy reappears on tour in next week’s Accenture – where he will be one of the top seeds – but has signalled a change of plan later in the season by deciding to play in the Scottish Open the week before the British Open at Hoylake. McIlroy, who traditionally takes that week off, is aiming to follow the example set by Phil Mickelson last year when he won the two tournaments back-to-back.

“To play some competitive golf on a links course will be great preparation for the Open Championship the following week . . . I can think of no better preparation, especially on a respected course like Royal Aberdeen.

“There will also be so many similarities I can bring to the following week’s (at Hoylake),” said McIlroy, in confirming he would add the Scottish Open to his summer itinerary.