Irish PGA descends into farce

By Brian Keogh

The Irish Professional Championship descended into farce as three weather delays forced the postponement of the third round at The European Club.

Overnight leader Padraig Harrington hit just a few balls in the range when he finally turned up at 5.45 pm - nearly six hours after his scheduled tee time.

The Dubliner is facing 36 holes today and looks likely to miss a scheduled 6pm chopper ride to Limerick, where he is expected to attend a wedding reception for JP McManus' daughter Sue Ann.

But he was philisophical about his fate and still hopes to see the championship taken to an exciting conclusion, even if the tournament is reduced to 54 holes.

Due to fly out to Carnoustie for the Open at 6pm tomorrow (Sunday) Harrington said: "I probably had the most rest in a day that I have ever had during a tournament.

"It is a pity but if we get 36 holes played tomorrow it won't be so bad. In fact, even if we only get another 18 holes it won't be bad. All tournaments just need a conclusion.

"From my experience, they want a conclusion to any event and whatever builds up to that - the last few holes - is all that counts.

"I would have liked to have played a few holes today to see what the conditions were like but it was not to be."

As for the wedding, Harrington added: "The plan is to get picked up but I am here to play a golf tournament and that is the story at the end of the day."

Persistent rain forced an initial suspension of seven hours and 10 minutes before play finally resumed at 4.45 pm.

But just 45 minutes action was possible before a sea haar rolled in, forcing the players off the course again..

After a 20 minute suspension, they headed out again but were back in the clubhouse for good just an hour later as the fog reduced visibility to less than 200 yards.

Just 40 of the 50 players that made the cut managed to tee it up but none got to finish after a stop start day with 8am starters John Kelly and Padraic O'Rourke only making it as far as the 17th.

According to readings taken at Druids Glen yesterday afternoon, just over an inch of rain (30 mm) fell in the space of eight hours.

Michael McCumiskey, secretary of the PGA Irish Region, faces a massive task to complete 36 holes today and avoid the third 54-hole championship since 1998.

McCumiskey said: "There are still five third round matches to tee off and they will finish teeing off by 8.15 and we intended having a draw for round four between 1.15 and 1.30.

"We plan to have a two-tee start - 13 matches off each tee - and have everyone off the tee between 3.15 pm and 3.30 pm, weather permitting.

"It weather doesn't allow we could reduce the championship to 54 holes. I am not looking at Sunday and I am not wishing to be here on Sunday but I am not walking away from having as many rounds as possible."

The championship has twice been reduced to 54-holes with Harrington winning a four-way play at Powerscourt in 1998 and Paul McGInley taking the title at Westport in 2002 when high winds forced the abandonment of the final round.