Padraig Harrington’s hopes of winning the 75th Masters suffered a killer blow before he hit a competitive shot when he ricked his neck on the driving range and then crashed to a five over par 77.
The Dubliner, who was advised to pull out before the start, will need a miracle now to make the cut if he carries on and eventually tees it up in Friday’s second round.
Unable to turn his head to the right, the three-time major champion couldn’t align himself properly on the greens and confessed that it was a bitterly disappointing day for him considering how well he had prepared.
“I nearly pulled out before I started,” Harrington said. “I haven’t even come close to swinging the club. I was wondering if I should pull out, but I wouldn’t. That’s just my nature. I would always have a go. But it wasn’t much fun.
“I was swinging the left‑handed shot, just warming up and it just kind of clicked and I’m not able to move to my right. Such is life.”
The Dubliner was five over with five to play but birdied the 15th and 16th before taking a double bogey six at the card 77 for the fourth time at Augusta, equalling his worst score.
Asked if he would battle on , Harrington said: “I could say ‘no’ right now but knowing me, I would never fail to finish a round of golf. I take some pride in that.
“I’ve never failed to finish a tournament. So I would like to finish the tournament. But it’s tough when you can’t hit the shots and it would be just hard enough to make up the numbers, but as it is, you know, we’ll see how it goes.”
The Dubliner had high hopes of challenging for the title but now knows that the dream is over for another year.
He said: “It’s very disappointing. I prepared very well, I was in good form, but it was not to be. Such is life.”
Harrington has been plagued by a disc bulge on the C5 vertebrae for many years, famously suffering in the 2002 US PGA at Hazeltine when he needed treatment on the course just to get through the first round.
He said: “I do a lot of work on it and it doesn’t give me too much trouble during the year. But it’s always going to happen. I would love to tell you that there’s more I could do, let’s say, aside from cutting my head off.”
He almost didn’t make it to the first tee but while he had treatment before the start, he didn’t take any painkillers and suffered badly.
Explaining what happened, he said: “I swing left‑handed when I’m warming up before I hit shots. And I probably, I’ll keep swinging left‑handed, but I won’t swing as hard next time.
“I went back in for treatment and I didn’t get a warm‑up really at all. I spent about two minutes on the putting green and I really couldn’t do my warm‑up at all because I had to get back out and get treatment and all that.
“I didn’t take any pain killers. I was hoping it would go away but it actually got worse on the course. Maybe I should have taken the pain killers. There you go. It didn’t cross my mind.
“But I couldn’t keep my head in position at impact. I had to come up on all my shots. And when you’re doing that you can hit it right and left.”
Harrington birdied the tough par-four fifth but bogeyed the sixth and the double bogeyed the seventh after a visit to the trees on the right and a bunker with his third.
He turned in two over 38 and then bogyed the 11th, 12th and 13th to slip to five over. But while he rallied with birdies at the 15th and 16th he closed with a double bogey six at the last.
“I putted awful today,” Harrington said after taking 35 putts. “I couldn’t read the greens very well and that could be my head was off to one side.”
Despite his disappointment Harrington was pleased to hear that golf’s governing bodies have revised the wording of Decision 33-7/4.5 and ended trial by television where disqualifications have been caused by score card errors identified as the result of recent advances in video technologies.”
It’s great to see that they have got together and acted so quickly,” Harrington said. “And it’s fantastic that the two organizations can ‑‑ and they’re not even over professional golfers ‑‑ say that they can work the way they did to change it. And going forward it seems like a pretty sensible thing in its wording and that, it’s a small change, but a good change.”
The revision to Decision 33-7/4.5 addresses the situation where a player is not aware he has breached a Rule because of facts that he did not know and could not reasonably have discovered prior to returning his score card.
Under this revised decision and at the discretion of the Committee, the player still receives the penalty associated with the breach of the underlying Rule, but is not disqualified.
In revising the decision, The R&A and the USGA confirm that the disqualification penalty still applies for score card breaches that arise from ignorance of the Rules of Golf. As such, this decision reinforces that it is still the responsibility of the player to know the Rules, while recognizing that there may be some rare situations where it is reasonable that a player is unaware of the factual circumstances of a breach.
Harrington was disqualified after an opening 65 in Abu Dhabi in January. He had already signed his scorecard when a television viewer raised the issue of his ball moving as he marked it on a green - and because of that the punishment could not just be a two-stroke penalty.
Harrington said: “It’s only in the case where a player could not have been aware, so it’s, you know, it’s hard to see. You know what? I would say we could wait a lifetime before we see another instance exactly like that one.
“If I wasn’t shooting 65 I probably wouldn’t be on cameras and it would have been no issue. But such is life. But it’s great to see that the R & A has reacted so quickly and essentially the USGA and R & A look after the game of golf and it’s great that they can be concerned for professional golf and bring in a rule, which is really for professional golfers, not too many amateur events that they worry about that. But who knows.”