Harrington frustrated at soggy Valderrama

Padraig Harrington was fuming after a combination of bad luck, bad weather and dubious decision making left his Order of Merit hopes hanging by a thread at the Volvo Masters.

The reigning Open and US PGA champion needs to finish first or second in the final edition of the prestigious season-ending event to lift the Harry Vardon Trophy for the second time.

Already hampered by a nightmare 76 in the first round, he was hit by the worst of the weather on Friday, delayed by four hours before he could start his third round yesterday and eventually stopped in his tracks by torrential rain as he attempted a trademark charge up the leaderboard.

Play in the third round was suspended at 5.25 pm local time with Harrington two-over par for the tournament after 11 holes and seven strokes behind pace-setters Soren Kjeldsen and Sergio Garcia, who were five-under par and one clear of Order of Merit hopeful Lee Westwood after six and seven holes respectively.

Caught in the worst of the weather for the second day in a row, Harrington was upset that officials decided to delay the start of the third round until the entire field had completed 36 holes.

The Dubliner still had five holes of his second round to complete early yesterday and while he eventually carded a level par 71 at 10 am to trail the leaders by 11 strokes on five over par, he could not understand why the Tour decided to re-draw and send the field out in threeballs with a two-tee start at 2pm.

Tied for 18th place at the suspension, Harrington said: “I don’t know why we didn’t play for the four hours this morning. I could have been at the safari with my kids this afternoon.

“They could have sent us straight back out and I would have been finished by three o’clock and I don’t know why they wasted the four hours. Now they are faced with the situation where they have both nines to play and everybody is out on the golf course.”

As players waited for the entire field to finish before starting their third rounds, Chief Referee John Paramor said: “Yes, we have an empty course, which may look silly given the circumstances. But it is not quite that simple.

“We are going to need a redraw at some stage if the winner is not to come from the middle for the field. We could have done it today or tomorrow but we felt it more prudent to do it today.

“It this instance, we have the ability to rest the course to do necessary maintenance work, such as a single cut of the fairways and greens and repairing bunkers. The most we could have gained would have been an hour.”

After battling through “brutal” conditions on Friday while the leaders sat in the clubhouse, Harrington can consider himself unlucky that the weather was almost perfect for the pace-setters when play resumed yesterday morning and then turned nasty on him later in the day.

But has only himself to blame after his opening 76 and he now needs the tournament to go 72 holes if he is to have any chance of closing the gap on the leaders and grabbing the top-two finish he needs to steal the Order of Merit title from Robert Karlsson.

Yet while the Swede is tied for 28th place on five over, Westwood is now the danger man, lurking just one stroke behind Garcia and Kjeldsen on four under par.

Ranked third in the Order of Merit, Westwood can take the Vardon Trophy if he wins the tournament and Karlsson finishes no better than sixth.

Ireland’s Darren Clarke sharing sixth place just four strokes off the pace on one-under par after seven holes when play was suspended with Graeme McDowell a shot further back on level par after eight.

The forecast for today is favourable with play set to resume at 8.30 am and the leaders scheduled to tee off in the final round at midday local time.