Harrington misses cut after putting blues

Sergio Garcia is in the mix in Tampa. Picture Fran Caffrey/www.golffile.ie from Dubai Desert ClassicOne of the them got stung by a bee, shot 66 and lies just a stroke behind a pair of surprise joint leaders at the Transitions Championship in Tampa.

The other had 33 putts and shot 70 but still missed the cut by two shots in his penultimate event before the Masters.

The man smiling at the end of the day was Sergio Garcia, not Padraig Harrington, who must now be wondering what he has to do to string four consistent tournament rounds together.

Harrington has just over two weeks to get some confidence in the bank and his seventh missed cut in the last 12 months will have done little to help his state of mind as he counts down to Augusta.

The Dubliner was always struggling to make the weekend after a two over par 73 on Thursday that was characterised by some pretty average iron play.

The world No 34 - he will surely fall further in the rankings on Monday - went to Innisbrook with his hopes high after a tenth place finish and some purple patches of good play in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral last weekend.

This week he appears to have lost the thread again.

His second round started brightly enough when he hit the first three fairways. But while he birdied the par-five first (he two-putted), the 39-year old holed little else until a 33 footer disappeared for his second birdie of the day at the par-three 17th.

By that stage it was too late and he saved himself some hanging around when he missed a six foot birdie chance at the 18th that would have given him some hope of making the cut. As it turned out, he missed by two on one-over par.

The tally of 33 putts is telling. It’s not that Harrington putted badly all day, he simply didn’t hit the ball close enough to the hole to have much chance of holing anything.

2nd hole - 31 feet; 3rd hole - 38 ft; 4th 21 ft; 5th - wedge to 45 ft; 6th 38th feet.

When he started hitting it close, he missed. An eight footer at the seventh, a 10 footer at the eighth. When he missed the green from 130 yards at the ninth, he missed a nine footer for his par and suddenly he was back where he started the day at two over par.

Harrington doesn’t judge his rounds by the statistics you see on the PGA Tour website. But even by his own reckoning, he was well off the pace.

“I would look at the percentage of times I chip and putt,” he said before the Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson. “The number of times I get it up and down out of bunkers, the number of putts I’d miss from inside 25 feet, 15 feet, 8 feet. I know that in a general tournament I will miss 34 putts from 25 feet and in. When I win it is about 28. It is a tight as that.

“I do my wedges. At Pebble Beach I had 23 pitching wedge, sand wedge or lob wedge shots and I played those holes in five over par when you should be playing them in six or seven under par - 30 percent is a reasonable target.”

At least two shots outside the cut line, Harrington needed to make something happen on the back nine but he hit his tee shots into the trees at the 10th and 11th before missing 20 footers for birdie at the 12th and 13th.

Then came the last straw. At the par-five 14th he had 47 yards to the pin from the fairway but came up 28 feet short - a big miss for a man of Harrington’s short game skills - and two-putted for par.

He then missed a nine footer for birdie at the 15th before holing that late birdie putt at the 17th and missing that 10 footer at the last.

One suspects that Harrington will be working hard on his wedge game for the next two weeks. But he’s also got work to do mentally.

Not that he’s going to run to Garcia for any tips. The Spaniard is still fighting his own demons but after two bogey free days at Copperheard, he’s taking it one day at a time.

Just a stroke adrift of Garrett Williss and Chris Couch on eight under after rounds of 68 and 66, Garcia isn’t thinking about winning just yet.

“Same thing. Just keep trying to do the right things, and see what we finish,” said Garcia, who has been using the claw grip on the greens since last November. “I’m not worried about winning. I just want to keep building confidence into my head, and these rounds obviously help. If we go out there tomorrow and shoot another round, beautiful. If not, that’s fine. I’ve just got to make sure that I keep building up.”

The Europeans are well represented at the top of the leaderboard with Justin Rose (65) and Pau Casey (71) just two shots behind the leaders in joint fifth on 7 under.

Then there’s 17 year old Italian sensation Matteo Manassero, whose second successive 68 left him tied for 11th with the likes of Martin Laird and Peter Hanson on six under as he bids to qualify for the Masters.

The top 50 in the world on Monday will make the field and 55th ranked Manassero has a chance to become the first player ever to play in twice at Augusta before his 18th birthday.