By Brian Keogh
Padraig Harrington failed to deliver on his FedEx Cup promise as a late three-putt killed his charge in the $7 million Barclays Classic.
The Dubliner had scorched up the leaderboard with four birdies in the first ten holes in the first play-off event at Westchester Country Club.
But his hopes of closing the gap on leader KJ Choi evaporated at the 214-yard 16th, where he missed a three and a half footer for par after leaving his tee shot nearly 60 feet away.
The Open champion then failed to birdie the par five-18th and had to settle for a 68 that left him a dispiriting nine shots off the pace on three under par.
Ranked 21st in the FedEx standings, Harrington confessed before the start that he needed a top drawer performance on one of his favourite courses to close the gap on absentee points leader Tiger Woods.
The Dubliner believes he must win two of the four play-off events to have a chance of pocketing the $10 million retirement bonus.
But he may now have to wait until next week's Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston to get off the mark.
Clubhouse leader Choi, who is fifth behind Woods in the FedEx standings, added a five under par 66 to his opening 64 to lead by two shots in the clubhouse from Rich Beem at 12 under par.
Buoyed by an eagle two at the seventh, where he holed out from 94 yards, Choi said: "I feel very comfortable right now but every day is a new day. I love the course set up but the greens are very difficult with a lot of uphill and downhill putts."
Harrington knows all about the difficulty of the greens after three-putting twice from short range in an opening 71.
But with perfect early morning conditions, he took advantage right from the start when he rifled his approach to just four feet at the par-three first.
The world No 6 then birdied the short, par-four seventh from 12 feet and then two-putted from 40 feet for another birdie at the par-five ninth.
Another birdie at the 320-yard 10th, where he drove pin high and chipped to eight feet, put him four under for the day and within striking distance of the top 10.
But he struggled with his pace putting on the way home and after being forced to drain a six footer for par after a poor long-range effort at the 14th, he slipped up with that three putt on the 16th.
Harrington wasn't the only big name to struggle on the greens with Ernie Els three-putting twice on his way to a level par 71.
The Big Easy sandwiched an eagle between four bogeys in his last seven holes to fall six shots off the pace while overnight leader Rory Sabbatini had 32 putts in a 71 to fall back to third place on eight under.