Brian Keogh in Tucson
Padraig Harrington was sore after crashing out to Stewart Cink for the second year in a row in the second round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at The Gallery Golf Club near Tucson.
But it wasn’t a niggling back twinge that bothered the Dubliner so much as the unforced errors in the middle of the match that allowed Cink to come back from two down after five holes to win 2-up.
“I just gave too many holes away,” said a crestfallen Harrington, who tweaked his lower back warming up on the range. “My back didn’t affect my swing at all. I just wasn’t with it out there and made too many mistakes.
“He played solidly and I made three or four errors in the match. I missed the sixth from the middle of the fairway, made bogey and handed him the hole.
“And I three putted the 10th from 25 feet, so I handed him two holes there. I got a bit unlucky at the 15th as well, where I hit a good tee shot and ended up under a bush after the wind changed.
“It is not often you hit a really good tee shot and it ended up under a bush but I suppose it is the nature for the game. It is always the same at this event at this time of the year. I am not quite sharp enough and it showed up. I wasn’t really focussed out there.”
Harrington was rubbing his back on the first tee but the muscle spasm he suffered did not require treatment from his physiotherapist Dale Richardson travelled out to the 12th green to check up on his client.
“There was nothing that we felt needed intervention at that stage,” Richardson said. “He has a muscle that is a little irritated but it was not affecting his swing.”
Harrington started strongly, splashing out to less than four feet from greenside sand at the par-five first before Cink sent his sand shot from a similar position scuttling over the green.
Another sand save at the third helped him keep his one-hole advantage before he doubled his lead at the 635-yard fifth, where Cink again pitched through the green in three after Harrington had hit a 40 yard bunker shot to less than three feet.
Harrington’s first mistake came at the sixth, where his pulled eight-iron approach from the middle of the fairway and ended up in scrub and and couldn’t make the green.
Both men birdied the driveable seventh before Cink levelled the match at the eighth with a towering eight iron to eight feet and then went one up at the 10th, where Harrington three-putted from 30 feet above the hole.
“Missing the green at the sixth was bad enough," Harrington said. "But three-putting the 10th really killed me.”
Cink then turned the screw, holing an 18 footer for a winning birdie at the 11th to go two up after Harrington had driven into the right rough and then flown his approach into the back bunker.
After halving the short, par four 12th in birdies, Cink got up and down from 117 yards for half in par at the next before Harrington clawed a hole back by chipping in from the back of the par-three 14th for a birdie two.
But the Open champion drove into the desert at the 15th and after being forced to chip out sideways, he lost the hole to a par four to go two down again.
An 18 footer failed to drop at the 16th but Harrington grabbed a lifeline at the par-five 17th where Cink, who was forced to lay up after a pushed tee shot, putted off the green from 56 feet and failed to save par.
A poor tee shot cost him again and needing to hole a 60 footer at the last to have any chance of forcing extra holes, his effort ran past the edge before Cink delivered the coup de grace with an 18 foot lag that toppled into the hole for his sixth birdie of the day.
The American will face Colin Montgomerie in the third round following the Scot’s 1-up win over Charles Howell III.
Asked if he was in Ryder Cup mode, Montgomerie smiled and said: “Yes, I was. And I have just told The Golf Channel that because I knew that Nick Faldo was in the booth.”
Then he added: “It is the only matchplay tournament we have before the Ryder Cup and if I was the captain - I can’t speak for Nick at all - I would be watching this tournament very closely.”
Faldo also witnessed a disappointing day for Spain’s Sergio Garcia, who was two up against Boo Weekley after ten holes but bogeyed three of the next four and lost by 3 and 1.
Weekley will face Woody Austin, who was one down with two to play but birdied the 17th to draw level and then beat Adam Scott with a birdie at the 19th.
David Toms withdrew with a back injury, handing Aaron Baddeley a walk-over and a third round clash with Tiger Woods, who beat compatriot Arron Oberholser 3 and 2 with six birdies and no errors.
KJ Choi beat Ian Poulter with a par-five at the 19th and will take on Paul Casey, who defeated Bradley Dredge 2 and 1 while Luke Donald lost 2 and 1 to Angel Cabrera.