Pádraig Harrington might be the ultimate driving machine but the Dubliner simply ran out of gas in his bid for a bumper €1.72 million pay-day in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Chasing a victory worth €725,000 and a resulting €1 million bonus for a rare Irish Open- PGA double, Harrington was driving on fumes after turning in three-over par on the old Burma Road.
He eventually lurched over the finish line with a closing birdie for a disappointing 75 that left him a daunting seven strokes adrift of front-runners Paul Broadhurst and Ross Fisher of England in a share of 12th place on three-under par.
Ironically, both Broadhurst and Fisher missed the cut in Limerick last week, but both finished with three successive birdies for respective rounds of 68 and 69 and a slim, one-stroke lead over South Africa’s Richard Sterne (66) and Australia’s Marcus Fraser (70) on 10 under par 206.
“The million euro bonus has gone down a lot in value at the moment,” sighed Harrington after three-putting twice and making just two birdies, both of them at par fives.
“I three-putted the first and it was all downhill really after that. I made lots of mistakes, lots of errors, especially with the irons. I was just flat, it’s a very simple case of it not being in the tank today.
“Things didn’t exactly go for me but if you were mentally fresh you could have got in with a 71. I was in between clubs a lot and not holing anything for 18 holes isn’t going to help. Throw in a few three putts and I think I did quite well to shoot 75.”
Just two strokes adrift of leaders Angel Cabrera and Justin Rose starting the day, the Irishman’s brave bid for an Irish Open-PGA double hit the skids on Wentworth’s easier outward nine.
Needing a fast start to get some adrenaline flowing through his veins, a missed three footer for par on the first green sapped the Dubliner of all his energy and he would eventually rack up 33 putts on a day to forget.
Another bogey at the 465-yard third, where he pulled his mid-iron approach to a pin situated on the top tier of a three-tiered green and powered his pitch 18 feet past the hole, left him struggling to move through the gears.
The only moment of levity in an otherwise dour front nine came at the par-five fourth, where he hit a towering tee-shot around the trees but tugged his mid-iron approach marginally left of the target.
Facing with a simple chip, Harrington backed off the shot twice as four-year old child wearing a green Ireland visor fidgeted almost imperceptibly behind him.
“I think I’m making him nervous,” Harrington quipped, before asking his caddie Ronan Flood for a ball which he then presented to young John Ryan of Essex, who conveniently withdrew behind his Limerick-born father Michael.
Still grinning from ear to ear, Harrington chipped to two-feet to get back to five under par for the championship. But he soon ran out of steam, dropping shots at the par-three fifth and 449-yard ninth to turn in three over par 38.
Three putt from inside 15 feet at the 11th and a bunkered approach at the par-five 12th effectively cost him his chance of the biggest single pay-day in the history of golf and while he birdied the 18th, almost holing his fairway wood approach, he will need a round in the mid-sixties today to have any chance of overhauling the leaders.
Overnight leaders Rose (73) and Cabrera (76) made just three birdies between them but the Englishman is just three adrift and still clings to the belief that a closing 68 could “ask a question or two” of the front-runners.
Of the rest of the Irish, Dubliner Peter Lawrie fired a one under par 71 to get back to level par for the championship - a huge improvement after slumping to five over par after just nine holes on Thursday.
But Ryder Cup vice-captain designate Paul McGinley continues to fight the gremlins in his game after a 76 relegated him to three over par for the championship.
“I didn’t play well but I got massively penalised for any mistakes I made,” McGinley lamented. “I had absolutely no luck.”