Weary Harrington loses sparkle in Tinseltown

Padraig HarringtonPadraig Harrington working on his putting in Arizona two weeks ago. He’ll be back in the state next week for the Accenture Match Play. Photo: kenneth e.dennis / kendennisphoto.comPadraig Harrington has been around long enough not to get too upset by a missed cut. So has Graeme McDowell.

Six over after a fairly horrific opening 77, the Dubliner bunkered his tee shot front right at the driveable 10th, his opening hole, and found the back bunker with his attempted escape.

He did well to make a four but it was not an auspicious beginning.

Yet he could still afford to wisecrack, or so it appeared, when he spotted a golf writer lurking nearby.

“Padraig saw me behind 10th green and compared me with a personal injury lawyer,” AP golf man Doug Ferguson tweeted. “Didn’t have a good reply to that.”

The ambulance chasers could have stayed away last night. Sure, Harrington was as about as reliable as a cardboard umbrella but he still managed to get it around in level par 71.

He missed the cut by four shots but, crucially, his putting was nowhere near as calamitous as it had been on Thursday, when he missed virtually every important putt inside six feet.

Sure, he missed two eight footers and a five footer as he went out in one over with birdies at the 11th (3 ft) and 17th (3ft) cancelled out by a bogey at the short 14th and a double at the short 16th (bunker to bunker). But there was some lovely striking in between, such as the approaches to the 12th and 13th.

Mental sharpness is never Harrington’s forte, especially early in the season or at the end of a run of five events in six weeks.

That he made just three pars on the back nine and still played it in one under par can be regarded as a triumph and something to draw on as he takes a much needed rest this weekend.

Graeme McDowellGraeme McDowell began the season with a missed cut after his 10 week break. Photo: kenneth e.dennis / kendennisphoto.comProjected to fall to 49th in the world, he cannot afford to be knocked out in the first round in the WGC-Accenture Match Play in Tucson next week if he wants to be amongst the top 50 who qualify automatically for the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral two weeks later.

Could he possibly add the Honda Classic to his schedule? It can’t be ruled out if things don’t go well in Arizona.

For a man who wants to win a Ryder Cup cap under pal Paul McGinley next year, it’s crucial to remain in the top 50 and use that as a springboard to a seventh cap at Gleneagles.

Miss too many WGCs and you are relying on the majors or big finishes in big events and Harrington knows he cannot afford to relax .

Yes, there are still question marks over his confidence on the greens but he holed enough from the 10-11 foot range at Riviera to suggest that it is not an insurmountable problem.

While the shorties can be tricky for his rocky self-belief in his green-reading and the wedge game needs work, the eagle three he made from just inside eight feet at the first was stunning.

Then came a hooked drive close to the out of bounds fence at the next that he resolved with a wedge back into play and an 84 yard approach to nine feet. Par.

Harrington finished with three bogeys and two birdies in a five-hole spell that screamed, “I’m tired.”

As for McDowell, the Portrush man was plainly ring-rusty after his 10-week break and missed the cut by a stroke after rounds of 73 and 72.

Like Harrington, he’ll be hoping he’s sharp in Tucson, where he’s never had a decent run.

One man who will certainly be joining them there is Freddie Jacobson, who got into the field when Brandt Snedeker withdrew earlier this week.

The Swede is ranked behind Shane Lowry in the world but with the seeds decided on Sunday night’s rankings, he can directly affect who the Offaly man faces on Wednesday.

As things stand, Lowry would take on world No 2 Tiger Woods. But Jacobson need only finish 28th or better to move above Lowry and reignite the possibility of an All Ireland clash with Rory McIlroy.

So far so good. After rounds of 68 and 65, he’s tied for the lead with South Korea’s Sang Moon Bae on nine under at Riviera, two shots clear of John Merrick and John Rollins.