Peaking at the right time is what separates the champions from the also rans and Padraig Harrington will be happy he’s still got the Shell Houston Open to play as he counts down to the Masters.
Having notched the best result of his career on the Blue Monster with a share of third place in the WGC-CA Championship at Doral last week, the Dubliner added the Transitions Championship to his schedule in an effort to knock some rust off his game and finished in a six-way tie for eighth, seven shots behind winner Jim Furyk on six under par after a one over par 72 in the final round.
The first two days could not have gone much better for the world No 10, who opened with a battling 68 and then took advantage of some scintillating iron play to post a two under par 65 on Friday and take a one stroke lead into the weekend.
While he will be disappointed that he failed to end his 19 month victory drought, Harrington’s form has been building gradually since he kicked off his season in Los Angeles six weeks ago.
“My father always told me as a kid, if you can’t win, play well five months of the year; make sure you play well midseason,” he said recently. “If you’re going to pick a time to play well, play well through the four majors …. If you do look back, guys who are winning December and January don’t normally have good summers.”
Harrington went into the third round of the Transitions Championship with high hopes but carded a disappointing one over par 72 on Saturday to fall back to tied sixth, four strokes behind Furyk with a round to play.
He was equally erratic on a difficult final day on the Copperhead course, hitting just a third of the fairways and only half the greens as he carded three birdies and four bogeys.
The Dubliner birdied the first before thunderstorms forced a four hour delay and when he resumed his challenge, he never threatened the lead.
Wayward off the tee and struggling with to judge the pace of the greens, he bogeyed the third and sixth to turn for home six strokes behind Furyk and KJ Choi.
He birdied the 10th to get back to level for the day, drove into water at the 12th to drop a shot and then holed a 40 footer at the 13th to get back to level before narrowly failing to hole a 12 footer for par at the last after a bunkered approach.
“I don’t want to give Jim a four-shot lead over a four-round tournament, let alone one round,” Harrington confessed after his one over par effort on Saturday. “There’s enough guys behind that somebody is going to shoot a good score and put some pressure on him. Hopefully it’s me.”
Furyk made five birdies and bogey in his first 12 holes, rolled in a 33-footer for birdie at the 12th to get to 15 under and move three shots clear of Bubba Watson and KJ Choi.
The remainder was a rollercoaster.
After taking three putts from the fringe of the par three 13th to bogey, Furyk birdied the par five 14th from three feet to go three clear again before three-putting the 15th to leave Choi just two shots back with the Snake Pit finishing holes to play
It looked as though his lead would be reduced to a single stroke when he bunkered his approach to the par three 17th but bravely holed an eight footer for par to lead by two playing the 18th.
What happened next was not for the faint hearted as Furyk drove into the right rough and shanked his approach 110 yards into the right rough, from where he pitched to 30 feet and two-putted for a bogey five and a 69 that gave him a one stroke win over Choi (67) on 13 under par.