Harrington tails Rose in Spain

From Brian Keogh at Valderrama

Padraig Harrington clawed his way back from the brink of disaster to keep his Order of Merit hopes intact at windy Valderrama.

The Dubliner was almost “Gone with the Wind” as he crashed to four over par and six shots behind bug-victim Justin Rose after just seven holes of a gruelling round.

But he battered his way back like a boxer to finish the day tied for fifth after knocking in an amazing FIVE back nine birdies to card a level par 71 to Rose’s 70.

Hit by an amazing Rose ace at the 181-yard third, Harrington double bogeyed the fifth, three-putted the sixth and then had a penalty shot on the seventh green when the wind blew his ball two feet away after he had addressed it.

Harrington joked that he was almost afraid to shake Rose’s hand at the start after hearing about his tummy troubles.

But he confessed that Rose's lightning start helped him, explaining: “I think Justin helped me, no question about it. The fact that he was three under par through six holes showed me that it was possible to do it.

“If he was four over par, like I was four over par, I think the two of us could have spiraled into oblivion and shot six or seven over par, thinking we were unlucky being out last on the greens and in the wind.

“When things go against a golfer for a while, they will often say they have nine holes to get it back. At the turn my caddie said I still had 63 holes to do it. So it is nice when it happens in a short space of time.”

Rose white as a sheet after picking up a tummy bug overnight and confessed that he had vomited just 30 minutes before teeing up.

Suffering from diarrhoea, he was given an intravenous drip to combat dehydration after a sleepless night but still finished the day tied for third with Peter O’Malley, two behind leader Graeme McDowell and one shot behind Paul McGinley.

Like Harrington, Rose needs a top-three finish to have a chance of becoming European No 1 for the first time.

But he was almost a hospital case after his round, explaining: “My body is aching and it feels like I have just gone 10 rounds with Tyson or 72 holes in the wind, I don’t know which one. Hopefully it’s just a 24 hour bug.

“To be honest, getting off to that start got the adrenaline going and feeling positive. It was such an important start for me today.

“Any time you have a hole in one, it is a bit of a surreal feeling. It is kind of weird when the ball disappears.”

Five ahead of Harrington at the turn, Rose came home in level par 36 to Harrington’s four under par 32.

And he paid tribute the Irishman’s fightback, adding: “He played a great back nine really. He holed a couple of big putts and played himself back into the tournament.

“Today was a day when you could play yourself out of the tournament. But he’s a fighter, yes. That’s one of the qualities you have got to admire about him.”

Ronan Rafferty crashed to an 83 that left him tied for second last on day when the average score was nearly five over par.

He said: “I play for fun twice a month and this is far too difficult for my level of play.”

Rafferty is tied with Mikko Illonen and Gregory Havret, who ran up a 10 at the dreaded 17th.

Two-time major winner Sandy Lyle propped up the field after an 84 that featured a 10 at the short par four fifth, where he had five air shots trying to play left-handed from the base of a tree.

Lyle said: “I decided to be a complete pain in the arse and show I could play it left-handed. Five whiffs. I've never done that before.”