We're on a mission from Pad

By Brian Keogh

It was like a scene from the Blues Brothers but instead of Jake and Elwood's 'Mission from God' I ended up on a 'Mission from Pad.'

The 'glamour' of covering golf's major events in the US is often outweighed by the 4 am alarm clock call and the race to beat the traffic.

With a five-hour time difference, an early first round tee time for the Irish contenders Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell meant a pleasant walk round in 28 degree heat and a chance to get out of the icebox media centre.

But watching Harrington's first round 73 at Oakmont turned into a wild buggy ride through thousands of spectators and a race to beat the rain.

Car boot

The Dubliner's pregnant wife Caroline walked every step of the way as her husband plotted his way around the first five holes in level par.

But as ominous clouds gathered overhead, she suddenly realised that Harrington was almost certainly heading for an unmerciful drenching.

Guessing that caddie Ronan Flood hadn't packed the wet gear ahead of what was forecast to be another scorching Pittsburgh afternoon, she kept an eye on the black clouds scudding towards the course as we trundled on to the turn.

By the time Harrington bogeyed the 18th to turn in one over par, she began to fear the worst.

But it took until the par-four second for Harrington to realise that he might be in trouble and that's when the Blues Brothers ended up swinging into action.

Flood jogged over to the ropes with the order to head back to the player's car park to grab an umbrella, the waterproofs and a spare towel.

But as she contemplated the 1,000 yard hike back up the hill, over the bridge that crosses the Pennsylvania Turnpike and around the clubhouse to where her husband's car was parked, Mrs Harrington immediately played her trump card.

Looking at Flood, she said: "Well I can't go, I'm pregnant."

The worried caddie shot an imploring look in my direction and fished the car keys out of the bag.

As Harrington looked on from the fairway, hoping that the hail storm that lashed the course the previous evening would stay away, I had visions of of telling my grandchildren how I helped him win the US Open.

Regretting it almost immediately, I said: "Okay, I'll go."

By the time I got to the clubhouse, I felt ready to have a heart attack and searched the car park Harrington's courtesy car - a navy blue Lexus - No. 67.

As I grabbed the required bits and pieces from the boot of Harrington's car, my colleague Karl MacGinty from the Irish Independent managed to commandeer one of the buggies that is normally reserved to shuttle players from the car park to the driving range.

Normally the press is kept at arms length by the hundreds of marshals with a rope and an armband who feel it is their duty to make life even harder for the hard-working press man.

But the magic words, "Padraig Harrington" soon saw us weaving our way through the crowds who were following Tiger Woods on the back nine.

Expecting to see an American fan bounce off the bonnet of the buggy at any moment, we slalomed as far as the first green when it became clear that the traffic jam.

Our driver, who was an Oakmont member, suddenly suffered an attack of paranoia, fearing that the devious press had invented a clever ruse to cadge a free lift out the course.

Turning to me, he said: "You guys ain't bull-s**tin' me now, are you?"

A quick dash across the bridge and a left turn left us at the side of the fourth fairway as Harrington and Flood appeared over the hill.

And with that the sun came out again and Harrington bogeyed two of the last four.

But if he wins the US Open, I'm still claiming a little piece of the glory.

If the caddie gets 10 percent of the winner's cheque, I could be entitle to a small share.

What's 0.01 percent of $1.2 million?

(Clarke jinx strikes again)

Darren Clarke's back garden football jinx has struck again.

A few weeks ago the Ulsterman tweaked him hamstring playing on his five-a-side pitch with his sons Conor and Tyrone and missed three events.

Then during a midweek barbecue the week of the BMW Championship and friend tore his hamstring in another kick-about and had to be carried off.

Now Clarke's eldest son Tyrone is the latest victory of the Field of Screams - struck down with a broken arm.

Clarke explained: "Tyrone fell awkwardly and hurt his arm. We didn’t think too much of it at the time, but when we went up to my club Queenwood to hit a few balls, he hit his first tee shot and the pain was so bad that he screamed.

"An x-ray revealed a fracture and now his right arm is in plaster and Conor doesn’t have anybody to play football with.

"Tyrone’s biggest concern, however, was not that he couldn’t play football for a while, but that he wouldn’t be able to open the bowling for his Ascot school cricket team."

(McGinley postpones opening)

Nothing seems to be going right for Paul McGinley these days.

The Dubliner, 40, has crashed to 141st in the world rankings and failed to qualify for the first two majors of the season.

He's also failed to finish any higher than 16th in his first 11 starts.

Now he's discovered that even mother nature is against him.

During his recent two week break, the Ryder Cup star took time out to check on his Macreddin Golf Club design in the Wicklow mountains.

But growth has been so slow that he has decided to postpone the official opening on the first nine holes in July.

He said: "The course is coming along very well but while the tees and greens are perfect, the rough and landscaping is not 100 percent right."

McGinley has been practising hard for his return to the tour in next week's BMW International Open in Germany - the first of five events in a row.

The last of those is the Open at Carnoustie with McGinley a starter thanks to his Ryder Cup status.

(Talking of jinxes)
Shane Lowry was in the headlines this week - and for once it was for all the right reasons.

The accident prone Esker Hills man had a change of fortune in Cork with a 4 and 3 victory over Niall Turner in the final of the Irish Close Championship.

Just two weeks ago, Lowry's clubs disappeared from the car park during the East of Ireland championship.

But last year he was disqualified twice for bizarre scorecards errors when leading.

In the West of Ireland at Rosses Point he signed for a wrong score after the player marking his card mixed up two holes.

Then in the Irish Amateur Open at Portmarnock he looked set to lead in the clubhouse until officials realised that he had failed to sign his card at all.

His Dad Brendan, the former Offaly GAA All-Star will be proud as punch of his son's first major victory