By Brian Keogh
Painful memories of the 2002 US PGA Championship came back to haunt Padraig Harrington as he required on-course treatment on his neck to get through the second round of the Abu Dhabi Championship.
The Open champion's troublesome disc bulge flared up after what he described as a poor reaction to a pre-round "adjustment" and the result was a second successive level par 72 that left him a dispiriting 13 shots behind runaway leader Martin Kaymer.
The Dubliner required three holes of running repairs from regular physio Dale Richardson midway through the round, but he was far from comfortable and eventually closed with a bogey six to make the one-over par cut with a stroke to spare.
"I hope to be perfectly healthy tomorrow, but it was awkward today," said Harrington, who thinned a tricky bunker shot over the 18th green and failed to get up and down for his par five.
"When I tried to fight it and ignore it, I struggled. You go with it and that's like changing your whole game plan, so both ends of things didn't help."
As for his score, Harrington added: "I didn't hole the putts, didn't hit the approach shots. It is not like I should be 10 under, maybe three or four under."
Harrington's neck has given him problems since it locked up on the range prior to the third round of the 2002 US PGA Championship at Hazeltine - most famously at last year's Open at Carnoustie.
But he insists that the hard work he has done in the gym has gone a long way towards controlling the problem and he doesn't expect it to be a major issue for the rest of the season.
He said: "It is always painful when you get adjustments on your neck. Before I arrived here, I wasn't a bit concerned. It just came on after I had the adjustment on the range.
"It is no big deal. I have a disc bulge on the C5 vertebrae and I do a lot of work on it. I would have said I was never in better shape. It doesn't refer to other areas and I am not overly concerned about it.
"I would say I was never as physically better balanced than I am now. It may be an issue tomorrow and it may be an issue Sunday. But I don't see it being an issue past that."
Harrington added that he would pull out if he had a tournament next week. But he has the next two weeks off before he plays three successive events on the PGA Tour - the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles and the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.
He needs a miracle now to open his 2008 campaign with a victory after 23-year-old Germany Kaymer followed his opening 66 with a stunning 65 to lead by six strokes from 2006 winner Henrik Stenson (70) on 13-under par.
Damien McGrane still leads the Irish challenge, though his level par 72 saw him slip from joint eighth to 18th on two under par while Dubliners Peter Lawrie and Paul McGinley are a shot further back after respective rounds of 70 and 71.
Ulstermen Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy joined Harrington on level par with Clarke bogeying three of the four shorts holes in a 72 and McIlroy mixing six birdies with five bogeys in a rollercoaster 71.
Defending champion Paul Casey missed the cut, as did Graeme McDowell and Gary Murphy whose matching rounds of 73 left them on two and three over par respectively.
Seeking his maiden tour win, leader Kaymer insists he will stick to his game plan today, though he is unlikely to get much help from Stenson's caddie Fanny Sunesson, who helps him with his swing, when they go out in the final group today.
Asked about Kaymer's talent as a player, Stenson said: "All I know it that Fanny helps him out a little bit with a bit of coaching, so that will be interesting.
"Is she going to help him out at all tomorrow? She says he is the real deal and a great player.
"I don't think she will be torn. She wasn't when she beat me at the Scandinavian Masters play-off in 2005 when she was caddying for Mark Hensby so I think she is loyal to whatever bag she is carrying - she wants to win as badly as I do."