Pádraig Harrington lays down early-season marker

Sixth-place finish in Tournament of Champions a fine start to season for Dubliner

 Pádraig Harrington  waves to the gallery  during the  Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Golf Club  in Lahaina, Hawaii. Photo:  Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Pádraig Harrington waves to the gallery during the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Golf Club in Lahaina, Hawaii. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

 

No tip-toeing from Pádraig Harrington, whose sixth place finish behind Jordan Spieth in the Tournament of Champions more than kick-started his year’s work. The 44-year-old Dubliner, proving his well-being following knee surgery, hit the ground running and gave a little reminder to Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke of his intent to make that team later this year.

As it happens, Clarke is in Malaysia this week captaining Europe in the EurAsia Cup with a team of old hands like Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter and young guns like Shane Lowry and Matthew Fitzpatrick. But Harrington’s performance, just six weeks after surgery to rectify a torn meniscus, provided confirmation that his stated ambition to be a part of Clarke’s team in nine months isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

Much work

Harrington’s best chance of making the Ryder Cup will likely come through the world points list, as he is focused on playing in the USA in the coming months and won’t be playing in Europe until the Irish Open at The K Club in May.

His upcoming schedule involves appearances in the Phoenix Open and the AT&T Pebble Beach ahead of his defence of the Honda Classic, and fully aware that he needs another win – or to break back into the world’s top-50 by the exemption cut-off date of March 28th – if he is to earn an invite to the Masters.

That final cut-off date for the Masters comes on the Monday following the WGC-Dell Matchplay Championship, which is another target for Harrington. Harrington needs to break into the top-64 players available off the world rankings to earn a ticket to Texas for that megabucks matchplay shindig.

For those soldiering under Clarke in Malaysia this week, there is an early-season opportunity to impress Europe’s Ryder Cup captain. One of those with his sights firmly set on making the Ryder Cup team this year is Lowry, who prepared for the EurAsia Cup with some warm-weather practice last week in Dubai.

Of Clarke’s 12-man team, only four – Ross Fisher, Poulter, Westwood and Victor Dubuisson – have played in the Ryder Cup. The other eight – Lowry, Fitzpatrick, Kristof Broberg, Soren Kjeldsen, Andy Sullivan, Bernd Wiesberger, Danny Willett and Chris Wood – are aiming to make early statements of intent in Malaysia.

An honour

Elsewhere, four Irish players – Michael Hoey, Paul Dunne, Kevin Phelan and Ruaidhrí McGee – are competing in the JoBurg Open, a dual-sanctioned tournament on the European and Sunshine Tours.

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