Pádraig Harrington turns to Plan B in attempt to rediscover some form

Strong Irish contingent set for Johnnie Walker championship at Gleneagles


Whilst Pádraig Harrington has been forced to turn to Plan ‘B’ after failing to make the FedEx Cup play-off series stateside, Rory McIlroy – who remains at number three in the latest world rankings – and Graeme McDowell head to a revamped Liberty National course, across the river from Manhattan, for this week’s Barclays Championship in Jersey City seeking to kick-start their respective quests for the US Tour’s megabucks jackpot.

The Barclays is the first of the four tournaments in the FedEx Cup that also takes in next week’s Deutsche Bank championship in Boston, the BMW championship in Illinois in three weeks time and, finally, the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta where a $10 million bonus payday awaits the ultimate winner.

Harrington’s failure to make the play-offs for the first time in his career has led the Dubliner to reorganise his schedule. So, instead of checking into a Boston hotel next week, the three-time Major champion’s new schedule will see him tee up in the Wales Open at Celtic Manor next week which will start the qualifying campaign for the European team for next year’s defence of the title in Gleneagles.

Slipped in rankings
The past few weeks and months have been something of a disaster for Harrington, who has slipped to 85th in the world: since missing the cut at the Irish Open at Carton House in June, Harrington’s form has seen him finish tied-54th in the British Open at Muirfield and then miss three successive cuts (the Reno-Tahoe Open, the US PGA and last week’s Wyndham Championship) which ultimately led to him missing out on the US Tour’s lucrative play-offs.

In North Carolina last week, Harrington talked of it being a “strange year” and an “odd year” with results, his switch to the belly putter (which took place at the Quail Hollow championship back in May) failing to have the desired impact on the greens. “I haven’t really scored well, I can’t put everything together in a given week . . . you have to have patience and accept that this going to happen every so often and try and be patient and to wait for it to turn around,” said Harrington, who would seem to have the patience of Job given that he is the man affected most by his loss of form.

In a way, Harrington has been forced back to his roots – adding on tournaments on the PGA European Tour – in his efforts to rediscover some form. Who knows? Perhaps now that things have been taken out of his own hands, he will rediscover the missing element and belatedly kickstart his season that will now be focused on the Race to Dubai and on getting back into the world’s top-50, which would provide a route back to the US Masters in Augusta next year now that his exemption as a Major champion has run out.

Although he failed to make the top-125 on the FedEx Cup list, Harrington retains a full tour card for the 2014 season (which starts in Ocotber) because he managed to remain inside the top-125 on the money list.

Harrington’s mind and body might be back in Europe for the moment, but both McIlroy and McDowell are very much focused on the US Tour and competing in The Barclays which this year returns to the Liberty National course.

The course is much changed from the one that played host to the Barclays in 2009. Fifteen of the course’s 18 holes have undergone remedial work for one reason or another, ranging from the moving of greens to the relocating of several creeks. A suggestion from Phil Mickelson that the heavy rough be taken out has also been taken on board. In all, 74 changes have been made on 15 of the holes.

McIlroy and McDowell actually paid a reconnaissance visit to the revamped course after the US Open in June.

Although 125 players qualified for play in the Barclays, the field will comprise just 123 players with Steve Stricker (playing a limited schedule) and Zach Johnson (attending his brother’s wedding) absent.

Field to be cut
The number of players moving on to the Deutsche Bank will be cut to the top-100 and then to 70 for the BMW. Finally, 30 players will make it to the Tour Championship, where Brandt Snedeker scooped both the season’s final tournament and the FedEx Cup jackpot a year ago at the expense of McIlroy.

After a hiatus of regular events stretching back to the Russian Open, the PGA European Tour resumes with this week’s Johnnie Walker championship at Gleneagles. Shane Lowry, who showed decent form in the PGA at Oak Hill, leads an Irish contingent that also features Russian Open winner Michael Hoey, Simon Thornton, Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, Paul McGinley, Gareth Maybin, David Higgins and Gareth Shaw, who has been given a sponsor’s invite.