Shane Lowry and Pádraig Harrington spark each other into US PGA top-10

Rory McIlroy laments ‘very average’ showing at Kiawah Island as Major drought drags on

Shane Lowry and Pádraig Harrington bump fists during their final round at Kiawah Island. Photograph: Jamie Squire/Getty

Shane Lowry and Pádraig Harrington bump fists during their final round at Kiawah Island. Photograph: Jamie Squire/Getty

 

There is chemistry between Shane Lowry and Pádraig Harrington that is so very real, a special inter-generational bond that goes beyond the simple task of hitting a golf ball off the tee and ultimately trying to get it into the hole in as few shots as is possible.

The pair, an Offalyman and a Dubliner, who share the distinction that each of their fathers’ played in All-Ireland senior football finals, strode the seashore of Kiawah Island in South Carolina together in the final round of the US PGA Championship and, rather fittingly, signed for scores of 69 apiece for finishing totals of two-under-par 286 that delivered top-10 finishes.

For Harrington, especially, it was a performance that stole days back from his old self. The finish was his first top-10 in a Major since the US Open in 2012 and, for the three-time Major champion, who these days is juggling his duties with his Ryder Cup captaincy with playing on the PGA Tour, it was a brilliant performance that again showcased his ability to perform in windy conditions and to embrace the challenge of playing and contending in the biggest events.

At one point, after Harrington played his tee shot on the Par 3 17th, the most difficult hole on the course, and finding the green for a birdie putt he would actually miss, Lowry put his arms around the European captain with the sort of friendship that goes beyond rivalry. The broad grins on the two faces a picture to behold.

Pádraig Harrington rolled back the years at the US PGA. Photograph: Jamie Squire/Getty
Pádraig Harrington rolled back the years at the US PGA. Photograph: Jamie Squire/Getty

“I’m very happy that I felt like I competed on a level with everybody else this week. Physically, tee-to-green, I played very well .You know, at 49 years of age, you don’t want to go out there and feel like you’re giving anything up. I certainly was good, particularly today.

“I will say, that was probably my most enjoyable round of golf I’ve had on the golf course in a long time. It’s amazing when you play with a friend, it definitely helped both of us relax and just play golf and both of us played really well. We both could have been quite a few shots better.

“And I will rue a little bit later on. You never know what’s going to win this tournament, but I will sit down afterwards and go, you know, there’s no doubt I left three or four shots out there. I was a little bit jittery on the greens and just didn’t run my putts at the hole like I would like to, but yeah, it was nice and it was nice to just do an interview there where it’s been a long time since I’ve been interviewed and been asked about my golf rather than The Ryder Cup. So for today, at least, I’m back to being a golfer,” said Harrington.

Lowry got off to a tough start with three bogeys in his opening six holes but got his game together to fight back and ensure a good finish that added further points to his bid to get onto Harrington’s Ryder Cup team automatically rather than have to rely on a captain’s pick.

“I’m going to go away from this weekend feeling what if, but that’s a great feeling to have, feeling like I was close to having a great chance this week,” said Lowry, who admitted making that Ryder Cup team - with upcoming US Open and his defence of the 149th Open to come - is a particular goal for him: "I’m in the position I’m in. This is another good week towards it. It’s always good to play well in front of him under the gun because I play a lot of golf with him, practice rounds, but for him to see me in competition was pretty nice, as well.

“So yeah, look, I’ve got a lot of golf to play between now and then. Like I said a few weeks ago, there’s another two major champions to be crowned the rest of this year. We’ve got a lot of big tournaments, a lot of good golf to play, and hopefully I can make that team, and like I always say, I don’t just want to make the team, I want to go to Whistling Straits and I want to win the trophy. That’s where my head is at this year, and I feel like I’d be a great part of the team if I do manage to get on it,” said Lowry.

Rory McIlroy shakes hands with Stewart Cink after his final round at Kiawah Island. Photograph: Cliff Hawkins/Getty
Rory McIlroy shakes hands with Stewart Cink after his final round at Kiawah Island. Photograph: Cliff Hawkins/Getty

For Rory McIlroy, who went into the championship as favourite following his win in the Wells Fargo a fortnight earlier, it proved to be a disappointing tournament which saw him fail to break par in any of his four rounds - 75-72-74-72 - which left him on five-over and cast adrift of that quest for a fifth Major title, a drought which extends back to 2014.

When asked to sum up his championship, McIlroy responded: “More of the same, very average. I can’t really get anything going and it was a day where you had to get off to a fast start. The first few holes were playing a lot easier than they have done and I didn’t do that, just sort of stuck in neutral.”

Of that tag of favourtism attached to him prior to the championship, McIlroy - who won the US PGA at Kiawah Island in 2012 - remarked: “I didn’t understand those high expectations. It was good to win at Quail Hollow, a course that I’ve always played well on and am comfortable on. I didn’t remember much of 2012.

“For whatever reason, it just wasn’t a very memorable week in many ways. I didn’t feel like playing well here nine years ago was going to automatically make me play well again, and I felt like coming in here there was still parts of my game that I needed to sharpen up, and obviously those parts were exposed this week in the wind and on a tough course.”

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