Padraig Harrington’s first vist to Hilton Head for 11 years ended in exasperating fashion when he missed the cut by a stroke in the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links following another poor showing on the greens.
The world No 80 arrived in South Carolina on a high having finished eighth in the Masters Tournament last week. But his putting, the part of his game he readily admits is now his “Achilles heel”, let him down as he added a one-over 72 to his opening 74 to miss on four over par.
The 40-year old now has a three-week break - his eldest son’s first communion means he must miss the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow - before returning for The Players Championship at Sawgrass.
It was Harrington’s first missed cut of the year and only his second since he failed to make the weekend at the Irish Open in Killarney last year and subsequently parted company with long-time coach Bob Torrance.
What he does this time remains to be seen but action is needed after he missed three times inside four feet on Friday - a luxury no PGA TOur player with ambition can afford.
Statistics are telling and Harrington will not need reminding that he made just three birdiesin 36 holes at Harbour Tour and all three came on par-fives with the longest birdie putt he holed a five-footer at the 15th that left him needing one birdie over the closing holes to survive.
Needless to say, he failed to make one. In fact, he did well not to drop another shot given his nerve-shredding inconsistency on putts of between three and five feet. Yesterday he missed three four-footers, the golfing equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot at this level.
He was uncomfortable from that distance all week and while he has had some great putting days recently - the 61 at The Transitions and third round 68 at Augusta National readily spring to mind - they are becoming the exception rather than the rule.
To add insult to injury, he was paired for the first two rounds with Ernie Els, whose putting woes and subsequent move to the belly putter have been well-chronicled in recent years.
The big South African was a huge critic of the long putter but swallowed his pride, changed to a belly putter and said at last year’s Frys.com Open: “As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them.”
Harrington made it abundantly clear at the Masters that he has no intention of trying the belly putter any time soon because he is against it in principal and also believes it will eventually be banned.
No doubt he was not speaking as an R&A ambassador on that latter point but one wonders if he might regain some confidence on the short putts by changing. Either way, he needs to find a solution to an issue that has been at the heart of his struggles for the best part of three years.
The PGA Tour calculates every statistic imaginable and when it comes to putting, Harrington is arguably the 151st worst putter on the tour. At least, that’s what the Total Putting statistics tell us.
“Total Putting is computed using 6 putting stats Putting from 3-5’, Putting from 5-10’, Putting from 10-15’, Putting from 15-20’, Putting from 20-25’ and Three Putt Avoidance from > 25’. Each statistic is given a numerical weighting based on the frequency of putts attempted from each distance. The players rank in each of the statistics used is multiplied by the corresponding weigh factor, totalled, and divided by the number of statistics used to produce the Total Putting Value.”
Now you know.
Some prefer the new Strokes Gained statistic over the Putts Per Round or Putts Per GIR. None are flattering for Harrington.
“The number of putts a player takes from a specific distance is measured against a statistical baseline to determine the player’s strokes gained or lost on a hole. The sum of the values for all holes played in a round minus the field average strokes gained/lost for the round is the player’s Strokes gained/lost for that round. The sum of strokes gained for each round are divided by total rounds played.”
Harrington is 123rd there and losing an average of 0.175 strokes to the rest of the field per round. Luke Donald tops the category with 1.186 strokes gained.
As for the three to five footers, he’s missed 14 of the 66 putts of that distance he’s faced in the US this year, leaving him 171st in that department.
His second round started in ominous fashion when he missed the green from 98 yards at the first and failed with a six footer for par to slip out to four over par straight away.
He did hole a four footer for birdie at the par-five second to get back to three over but it was a rare bird indeed and quickly erased by a bogey at the par-five fifth where his tee shot finished 179 yards from the tee in the right rough.
Having described the course as “claustrophobic” on his blog earlier this week it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that he hit a tree with his drive. He also missed the green with his third and then failed with a four footer for par to go back to four over.
He had to hole from seven feet to avoid three-putting the sixth but despite hitting his approach to just four feet at the ninth, he missed the putt to remain on four over.
Looking more and more anxious on the greens, the birdie chances simply refused to drop. At the 10th he missed from 14 feet but then holed a 12 footer for par at the next before missing two more chances from 14 feet and 11 feet at the 12th and 13th.
Inevitably, he bogeyed the 14th with a three-putt, missing another four footer to slip to five over
A birdie from five feet at the par-five 15th gave him hope of surviving the cut in an event he had high hopes of winning after his recent showing in the Masters.
But he could not create a realistic birdie chance over the last three holes, missing the green at the 16th and 17th before wanly two putting from 25 feet at the last and shaking his head as he handed the putter back to his caddie.
Els also missed the cut by following a front nine 33 with an accidented back nine of 43 courtesy of a triple bogey seven at the last and some indifferent approach play and more poor putting.
At the business end of the leaderboard, 2007 US Walker Cup player Colt Knost added a 66 to his opening 67 to lead by two shots from Carl Pettersson on nine under with two-time Heritage tournament winner Boo Weekley tied for third on six under with the up-and-coming Harris English.
As for Donald, who must finish eighth or better to deny Rory McIlroy the pleasure of regaining the world No 1 spot without hitting a shot, the Englishman made the cut with a shot to spare on two over after a 69.
The good news for McIlroy fans is that he’s six shots outside that top eight. The bad news is that Donald can seriously putt.