Tiger Woods heads to Dubai to get back on track as Pádraig Harrington looks to Phoenix

Time running out as Dubliner looks to earn ticket to the Masters at Augusta

Pádraig Harrington: Currently 130th in the latest world rankings.

Pádraig Harrington: Currently 130th in the latest world rankings.


As Tiger Woods flew one way, headed to Dubai where the world number one will again pocket a million or two dollars

for appearing in the Desert Classic, Pádraig Harrington went in the other direction.

The Dubliner made the journey to the US for this week’s Phoenix Open, which marks his first appearance of the season on the US Tour.

Ironically, given his travails in San Diego where he missed out on the secondary 54-hole cut for the first time in his career, the world’s top ranked player will probably tee it up in Dubai with a greater level of pressure – and scrutiny – than Harrington, who has pressures of his own in attempting to prise an invite into the US Masters.

The clock is ticking down on Harrington’s bid to earn that ticket to Augusta, although the Phoenix Open marks a three-week run that also takes in the Pebble Beach pro-am and the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles.

Exemption expired
Currently 130th in the latest world rankings, Harrington needs to break into the world’s top-50 ahead of the Masters to get into the field now that his five-year exemption from winning his Majors in 2008 (when he won his second British Open and added the USPGA) has expired. “A win would be a very important thing at the moment,” conceded Harrington.

He is turning his attention to the US Tour for the coming months, aware that he is not currently in either of the upcoming WGCs (the Accenture Matchplay and the Cadillac championship at Doral), which are dual-ranking events on both the US Tour and the European Tour. It means he is faced with the task of ensuring he plays in the 13 minimum required number of events on the European Tour this season. He is considering adding the French Open in July onto his schedule to ensure he meets that requirement.

“It’s an issue for me,” admitted Harrington, of the need to meet that tournament requirement in Europe. “I will find it hard if I play average. If I play badly or I play well, it won’t be a problem. If I play average, I am going to have to play more events. If I play badly I won’t be in the events in the States so I can go back to Europe to play. If I play well I will get into the events that double count. If I qualify for the US Open or the Masters, it takes two events away.”

Of course, the one obvious solution to Harrington’s “issue” would be for him to win. “I do like the events at the start of the year so I do hope I show some form, yes. A win sorts out everything, it really does,” said Harrington.

Harrington is the lone Irish player in action on the US Tour this week. Graeme McDowell is still a week away from his maiden event of the season (in next week’s Pebble Beach pro-am) and world number six Rory McIlroy has opted to remain in the Middle East where he is one of the tournament’s poster boys alongside Woods in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

McIlroy is one of seven Irish players in the field in the desert, where he is joined by Shane Lowry (who has missed the cut in both Abu Dhabi and Qatar where poor opening rounds punished him), Michael Hoey, Simon Thornton, Damien McGrane, Gareth Maybin and Peter Lawrie.

Bad third round
Woods seeks to bounce back from a bad third round, which saw him miss out on the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open on Sunday. Woods statistics provided some evidence for his failure to get by the 54-hole cut: he hit 18 of 42 fairways (43 per cent), 30 of 54 greens in regulation (55 per cent) and took an average of 29.3 putts per round.

For McIlroy, the tournament in Dubai will be an opportunity to further demonstrate his well-being. The Northern Irishman closed out the 2013 season with a win in the Australian Open and hit the ground running in Abu Dhabi, where he finished runner-up to Pablo Larrazabal.