As Tiger Woods suffered an epic meltdown to beat all meltdowns, Padraig Harrington carded his ninth round in the sixties since the beginning of August to keep his dream of winning the FedEx Cup very much alive at TPC Boston.
Despite not playing well, he opened with a four under par 67 in the Deutsche Bank Championship to trail leaders Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk by four shots on a day when 47 players in the 99-man field - not including Woods (70) and Phil Mickelson (71) - broke 70.
Harrington holed an eagle putt from nearly 60 feet but to say that Woods was unhappy with his game, and his putting, would be a major understatement after a club-throwing, expletive filled blow-out.
ESPN's Jason Sobel takes up the story.
Teeing off the par-4 fifth hole -- his 14th of the day -- Woods badly blocked a drive well right of the fairway. That's hardly a surprise, but it's what followed that was truly startling. Almost immediately after impact, he spiked the driver toward the ground, releasing the grip and letting it fly into what can only be described as a dry wetlands area about 10 yards in front of the tee box.
Tiger then walked away, roaring "Release the club!" to himself -- an ironic proposition considering the aftermath of his swing. His caddie, Steve Williams, was left to recover the driver from the thigh-high thick stuff -- which proved to be a daunting task, as it took some 30 seconds to locate the club and another 30 to actually pry it loose -- failing to leave the potential eBay goldmine lying in the weeds.
Asked later to describe his frustration on the hole, Woods would only allow, "How about every hole?"
While playing one of his weakest rounds in memory, Woods had missed four consecutive birdie putts from inside 13 feet as he stood on the fifth tee, his 14th hole of the day. Then he shoved his drive dead right into the trees and violently flung his mercurial driver clubhead-first into the turf and was darned lucky it didn't snap off at the hosel.
The club sprung several feet into the air and spiraled into in a wetlands area several yards away, where caddie Steve Williams spent several awkward moments looking for the club as his boss strolled past, still fuming. Luckily, the grip of the club was spotted sticking up out of the weeds, and Williams used Woods' trademark Tiger driver headcover to deflect the sticker branches away from himself as he waded 10 or 15 feet into the hazard to retrieve the club.
Moreover, as Woods spiked the club, he screamed two coarse and unprintable expletives at himself, followed by, "release the club." He meant at the point of impact, of course, not after the ball was long gone. He had no problem accomplishing the latter.
Even by Woods standards, it was an unusually incendiary moment, though it was seen by only a handful of witnesses. The fifth tee box is located about 60 yards from the nearest point where fans are allowed access, so outside of two media outlets, players and their caddies, and a member of the Norton Police Department, few saw the outburst. There were no TV or still photographers nearby.
"I didn't feel good over any shot today and didn't drive it very good, hit my irons worse and didn't make any putts," he said. "Other than that, it was a good day."
The highlight of Harrington's round was an eagle three at the par-five 18th, his ninth, where he drained a 60 foot putt from just off the green.
Talk about a man who can do no wrong.
Energised like never before at this stage of the season - he was shattered in September in 2007 and 2008 after his major winning exploits - Harrington is probably wishing it were April.
“Because my first half of this season was poor I am fresh and raring to go at the moment,” he wrote in his pre-tournament blog. “I am here after three top tens in a row; two of them second places and I have contended in my last three tournaments which gives me confidence for the week ahead.”
He turned 38 on Monday last and spent the day wandering around Flushing Meadows eating ice cream and popcorn, playing the part of the ordinary sports fan at the US Open.
The great thing about it was that I got to wander around and be one of the spectators and not have to worry about competing; the amount of times that I look at the spectators at a golf event and think how nice it would be to be one!
By the time he got to TPC Boston on Wednesday morning, he was chilled out and did his practice early, leaving by 3.30pm to catch the preseason clash of the New England Patriots and the New York Giants.
He knows that the Deutsche Bank has been a birdie fest for the past fews years and can’t quite work out how the field goes so low when he has missed the cut on the two occcasions he has played what he considers to be a fairly tough course.
On Friday, he looked destined to burn it up when he had early problems but still turned in three under after a birdie two at the 16th and eagle at the 18th, where his 60-foot putt that caught a piece of the pin and dropped as hit hurtled down the green.
In the end a 67 was a great result, considering he drove into a hazard at the first and had to holed a 15 footer for his par. By day’s end he had hit just half the fairways but missed only three greens.
Pushing on after the turn, he birdied the third and fourth but then struggled to score when he finally started to fire on all cylinders. As a result, he three-putted for bogey at the sixth and parred his way home for a satisfying 67.
“I didn't play very well out there to be honest," he confessed. "My focus wasn't great, and I didn't hit it well off the tee. But I got it close on the greens, I holed a few putts and ran a lot of putts close, as well. On the last couple holes, I started to play a bit better.
"Off the tee I got myself in trouble, but I hit most greens. I had birdie putts on most holes, even though I had been out of position off the tee. I played a little bit better towards the end, which is nice. But it's always more important to hole the putts. I holed a few putts to keep me in there early on and finished up better.
“Funny, I scored my worst over the last couple of holes, but I probably played my best golf. I scored well all day, which is very important, bar the one three-putt.”
Ranked 14th in the FedEx Cup standings, Harrington can still win the $10m top prize. Just 70 players will progress to the third leg of the play-offs, the BMW Championship in Chicago next week, and Harrington knows what he has to do to get himself into position to strike when the top 30 face off at the Tour Championship two weeks later.
As he wrote on his blog: “To have a chance to win the FedEx you really need to be in the top five at the Tour Championship. I am currently 14, if I can manage to win one of the next two weeks then I would be secure within the top five. As much as that is the target for the next two weeks I have to put it to the back of my mind as I can only do it by concentrating on one shot at a time and not getting ahead of myself.”