Desperate times require desperate measures but even by Padraig Harrington’s standards this was extreme. Asked to play his last four holes in two under par to make the cut by the skin of his teeth, he pulled it off with a grin on his face.
Having been told (or ordered) by his wife that he was to cancel the week-long family holiday he’d booked in the Bahamas and to get his ass to North Carolina to try and qualify for the FedEx Cup play-offs - a bizarre set of circumstances for a man who’s in freefall in the world rankings to begin with - he began his preparations by ditching the putter that brought him three major titles in the space of 13 months.
So what if he’d had the putter in his bag for the best part of a decade. This was serious. Out went the trusty Odyssey two-ball and in went a branding iron style implement by TaylorMade known as the Ghost Spider, complete with a white, oversized, Super Stroke grip.
It was an understandable move considering how poorly he’d putted at the weekend in the US PGA in Atlanta, where he failed to play well enough to move into the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings.
He putted poorly with the new blade in round one, turning a potential 66 into a one under 69 that left him perilously poised in 67th place.
Three putts from long range at the opening hole of his second round left him outside the cut mark on level par and when he took three to get down from just short of the fourth green, missing a six footer for par, his focus sharpened considerably when he realised he was three shots outside the cut mark with 14 holes to play.
Non-qualification for the FedEx Cup play-offs would leave Harrington with just one viable tournament start in the entire month of September, ensuring his continued freefall in the world rankings in a year when his deals with big money US sponsors FTI and Wilson expire.
It’s more than likely that Harrington already knows his fate in those departments but having travelled to the Wyndham Championship to try and salvage something from a forgettable season, he kept on fighting.
A two-putt birdie at the par-five fifth still left him two shots outside the cut mark of two under par and while he holed a 27 footer for birdie at the ninth and a seven footer for par at the 10th, he looked more likely to drop shots than pick them up.
By the time he reached the 14th, the cut had moved to three under and he was still two shots outside the mark. After driving into the rough, he could only muscle the ball up to within 40 yards of the pin, which was tucked in behind a bunker.
Short-sided and staring at a bogey that would all but end his PGA Tour season, he flicked a wedge to eight feet and rolled in the slippery par putt to stay alive. It was vintage Harrington.
Two perfect shots gave him an easy two-putt birdie at the par-five 15th. But he still needed another birdie to make the weekend and got it at the 17th when he hit a 110-yard wedge some 15 feet above the hole and rolled home the putt.
As is always the case with Harrington, there was more drama to come. The 507 yard, par four 18th was playing as the hardest hole on the course and Harrington made it even tougher by tugging his tee shot into the clinging bermuda rough, some 180 yards from the green.
Gambling on his approach, he flew a cross bunker with little to spare and chased the ball up, watching it finish just 14 feet short of the hole from where he gratefully two-putted for a two under 68.
It was backs to the wall stuff from the 39-year old who finished the day nine strokes behind leader Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey on three under.
Projected to fall to 133rd in the FedEx Cup standings if he remains at the foot of the leaderboard, Harrington reckons he could need a top 20 finish to ensure his place in the field for the Barclays next week.
But he was understandably relieved to at least have a chance to continue the fight.
“I’ve got a bit of work to do,” Harrington said. “As I said at the start of the week that it would be a good week to be in contention because if you are in contention you are going to automatically qualify for the FedEx Cup.
“Obviously I am way off being in contention so I’ve got to work hard at the weekend and sweat a little bit and watch other people on the leaderboard and wonder what everybody else is doing.
“It would be a lot easier if I was coming down the stretch trying to win this tournament because then I wouldn’t be worrying about what anybody else is doing.”
Unaware of exactly what he has to do to move from 130th into the top 125 who make the Barclays, Harrington said: “I haven’t looked but I probably need a top 20, top 30 to keep moving forward, something like that.”
As for his famly holiday, Harrington was glad his wife let him off the hook and forced him to go to North Carolina.
“We had booked to go on holiday and I knew the situation I was in. So I said nothing,” Harrington explained. “I was just going to go [to the Bahamas]. But when I hadn’t qualified after the last two events [Bridgestone and US PGA] it was my wife who said, ‘Come on, let’s go to Greensboro, go and qualify.”
The news was not hugely popular with Harrington’s eldest son, who undoubtedly fancied a trip to the spectacular Atlantis Hotel.
“One of the kids is seven so he obviously realises he is not going to the Atlantis Hotel. But for the three-year old, one swimming pool is the same as the other and they have been to the water park a few times already and they are both having a great time and we’ll get back there again.”