Pádraig Harrington looking to bring the good vibes on to the course in Portugal

Ryder Cup captain among a number of Irish golfers looking to move into Race to Dubai top 50

Pádraig Harrington is in action at the Portugal Masters this week as he looks to get into the Race to Dubai top-50. Photograph: Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR via Getty Images

Pádraig Harrington is in action at the Portugal Masters this week as he looks to get into the Race to Dubai top-50. Photograph: Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR via Getty Images

 

On the outside looking in, Pádraig Harrington at least has two attempts to break into the leading 50 players on the Race to Dubai standings who qualify for the DP World Tour Championship later this month. The Dubliner currently lies in 68th position and is playing in this week’s Portugal Masters and next week’s Dubai Championship, a late add-on to the European Tour season, in his efforts to make the megabucks tour finale.

To do so, Harrington, a winner of the Portugal Masters at the Victoria Course in Vilamoura in 2016, which was his last win on the European Tour, will need a major turnaround in form if he is to achieve his objective however.

Since his season’s best finish of tied-fourth at the USPGA Championship back in May, Harrington has missed eight of 11 cuts (on the European and PGA Tours). It’s a tale of missed weekends that speaks for itself, although the player is convinced that he is on the verge of transferring good practice-round form into good scores with card in hand.

As he put it of a charity day outing he played in England last week, “I never hit the ball better.”

So, what does he need to do to convert those scores when it most counts? “It is a competitive/practice type thing. I am going there to Portugal but it doesn’t matter where the golf course is, it is where my head is. If I can do the right preparation, my head might be in the game. If it is, I am well capable of playing and competing.”

Harrington and Jonathan Caldwell, winner of the Mixed Scandinavian earlier this season, are the only two Irish players in the field for the Portugal Masters. Caldwell, too, is in need for good finishes in both Portugal and the regular tour event in Dubai if he is to leapfrog his way into the top-50 who qualify for the Tour Championship. Caldwell is currently in 97th position in the Race to Dubai.

Cormac Sharvin, in 166th on the order of merit, faces the prospect of losing his full tour card and, as first reserve for the Portugal Masters, will hope that he gets a chance to make a play at saving it but aware that someone would need to drop out before Thursday’s first round if he is to get the call-up.

Unfortunately for Niall Kearney – who currently lies 131st on the order of merit, with the leading 122 players provisionally set to earn full tour cards for 2022 – the hope of a sponsor’s invitation into Portugal for the Dubliner never materialised.

On the PGA Tour, this week’s World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba provides the opportunity for Graeme McDowell and Séamus Power to maintain the momentum of strong finishes in the weather-affected Bermuda Championship, where both Irishmen finished in tied-12th, five strokes adrift of Australian Lucas Herbert who added his breakthrough win on the PGA Tour to his DDF Irish Open and Dubai Desert Classic successes.

McDowell, a winner of the Mayakoba in 2015, has shown a considerable improvement in form since returning to play following summer surgery on a muscle in his right arm. The Northern Irishman missed nine weeks of the season, only returning to play at the BMW PGA in Wentworth in September and – having missed four of five cuts prior to surgery – has gone 49th-22nd-71st-12th since resuming tournament play. Norway’s Viktor Hovland is the defending champion, while world number seven Justin Thomas is the top-ranked player in the field.

Herbert’s win in Bermuda moved him to a career best 43rd in the official world rankings and to fifth in the FedCup standings for 2021/22.

The Australian was so frustrated with the state of his game on the back of two missed cuts in the Sanderson Farms and the Fortinet Championship that he made an SOS call to his coach, Dom Azzopoardi.

“My game was really, really struggling and I decided to call in and get him over. By the time it looked a bit dicey trying to get him back into Australia once we got him out, so for him to make that commitment to come out and help me out a lot with my golf swing, we hit a lot of balls over the last two or three weeks getting ready for this event. To have it pay off so quickly and to share that win with him, that was really special,” said Herbert.

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