Early errors cost Harrington

Brian Keogh in California

Padraig Harrington mounted a dramatic late comeback beforecrashing out of the WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship to US Ryder Cup star Stewart Cink at Dove Mountain in Arizona.

The Dubliner was four down after six and three down with five to play but fought his way back to trail Cink by one with one to play before lipping out with a 10 foot birdie putt at the last that would have taken the match up the 19th.

World number one Tiger Woods cruised into the last 16 at the Gallery Golf Club thanks to an impressive 5 and 4 victory over hapless South African Tim Clark.

But there will be no dream semi-final showdown with arch-rival Phil Mickelson after the left-hander fell to Englishman Justin Rose by 3 and 1 in the shock of the day

Mickelson refused to blame fatigue for his loss after contending for the Nissan Open in Los Angeles last weekend. But it was certainly a fact in Harrington’s play as he started with all the impetus of a tortoise in a match that looked certain to end before the 18th.

Harrington wasn’t the only one left reflecting on what might have been as Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia also lost on a sweltering day in the Sonoma desert.

Donald went down to an 18th hole birdie by Aaron Baddeley and while Garcia was soundly beaten, four and three, by Nissan Open winner Charles Howell III.

The signs were ominous for Harrington from the time he made a dreadful attempt at a nine foot birdie putt at the opening hole.

Bunkered in two at the 588 yard par five, the Dubliner splashed out nicely and then looked on as Cink’s chip from the ruin off area to the right came back off the green.

The American left himself a four footer for par but Harrington could not take advantage of his chance, pulling or misreading his birdie putt by several inches.

After that it was a case of being suckered by sucker pins, which were once again situated on the corner of greens or next to tricky slopes.

At the second, Harrington went for the pin, which was cut just five paces from the left edge but pulled his 160 yard approach, which kicked off the green into the fluffy rough.

Cink had the luxury of playing safely to the middle of the putting surface, securing a two putt par which Harrington failed to match after his cut up wedge finished nine feet short of the pin.

Another Harrington error at the 225 yard third gifted Cink yet another hole in par. This time the European number one over-clubbed and kicked off the back edge, from where he chipped poorly and missed from ten feet.

Now two down, it got worse at the fourth, where he again short-sided himself after taking another dangerous pin and took three to get down from 20 feet after leaving his delicate chip more than eight feet short.

There was no respite for Harrington at the par-five fifth, where he missed a six foot birdie putt for a much needed win after Cink had twice tangled with the desert down the right hand side before saving par from four feet.

After all that had gone on before, it was no surprise when Harrington fell further behind at the 450 yard sixth, where he was just off the edge of the green in two but missed a four footer for par to go four down.

What Lee Westwood must have been thinking, after making eight birdies in his 19th hole loss to Harrington the previous day, is anyone’s guess.

His luck appeared to change at the driveable par four seventh, where he rattled in a 30 footer for birdie to cut the deficit to three holes.

But he missed a great chance from 11 feet at the short eighth and then lost the par five 10th to a Cink birdie.

The American rammed home a 12 footer for his first birdie there but Harrington could not match him from inside nine feet.

Heading for a thrashing at four down with eight to play, the Dubliner bounced back at the next with a birdie from eight feet.

But he appeared only to be prolonging the inevitable and while he birdied the 12th Cink matched him with a crushing 30 footer to remain three up with six to play.

Harrington did not give up easily though, winning the 14th with a par and the 15th with a 20 foot birdie putt to reduce to deficit to just one hole with three to play.

An error at the par three 16th, where he chipped off the green and bogeyed, left him two down with two to play but he took the 17th with an unlikley par five - three putting from 80 feet after two magnificent blows as Cink made a hash of his short third and took three more to get down from the back fringe.

With the match hanging by a thread, Harrington looked likely to pull off an incredible comeback when he fired his approach to just 10 feet at the last but lipped out with the putt to allow the American to progress to face Stephen Ames, who was a 19th hole winner Vijay Singh.