“Why do I do it to myself?”
That was the self-effacing reaction of Padraig Harrington after a wobbly finish left him sweating to see if he’d done enough to make the top 125 who tee it up in the first event of the FedEx Cup play-offs this week. The good news is that he had. Just.
Now he’s daring to dream of a FedEx Cup bonanza that could transform what has been a bitterly disappointing season. But is he putting well enough to take advantage? FedEx Cup standings
With a new weapon in the bag this week, the soon to be 40-year old Dubliner missed a couple of short putts late in the day and signed for a two hour 68 that left him provisionally 124th with several players still out on the course with a chance to end his hopes of teeing it up in The Barclays this week.
Condemned to pour over the projected rankings table, Harrington dodged bullet after bullet as his rivals gradually fell by the wayside. Some faded away, others never got going.
“I never like to do things easy,” Harrington said after his round. “I don’t know why. I got myself in a great position. I hit it down the flag all day, I had some good chances coming home.
“The only saving grace I can take from the day is it’s obviously windier today and it’s Sunday pin placements. I’m hoping that that storm doesn’t come in and it stays the same conditions for the rest of the day because … the scoring is a little tougher out there and hopefully I hang on in there.”
The list of players who could have ended Harrington’s FedEx Cup hopes ran to at least half a dozen but the key failures were Justin Leonard and journeyman John Mallinger.
Leonard bogeyed the last to finish 126th in the standings while Mallinger, who needed solo second to earn enough points to put Harrington out of the top 125, dropped three shots in his last eight holes. As a result Harrington finished 124th and William McGirt was 125th.
As for the tournament proper, Harrington eventually finished tied for 47th on six under, 12 shots behind first-time winner Webb Simpson.
The Irish world No 74 drove the ball beautifully from the tee, missing just two fairways all day. He didn’t putt badly but had 30 putts and finished the week tied 43rd for putting with a TaylorMade Ghost putter in the bag.
Striking his irons very well, Harrington holed the putts early in the round. He birdied the first and second from six and 10 feet respectively and then recovered from a bogey at the fourth with a two-putt birdie at the par-five fifth in to move up to 122nd in the FedEx standings.
After saving par from eight feet after missing the green at the par-three seventh, he looked a certainty to make the play-offs when he bottled a 30 footer for birdie at the 10th. But the birdies dried up and it became a grind.
At the 11th he holed from 10 feet for par and looked likely to birdie the par-five 15th when he splashed out to four feet from greenside sand. But he missed the four footer there and then three putted the 16th from 54 feet to slip back into the dangerzone.
He finished with two solid par fours but knew that he faced a long, afternoon with the pocket calculator.
“I played well enough,” Harrington said. “Hopefully I played well enough. Why do I do it to myself? It was bad enough last night looking at the predictions, they just change so much. … There’s a lot of movement out there, and we won’t actually know until the last putt is holed. It’s unfortunate.
“… There’s so many things that are still well out of my control completely because I’m finished. Still we’ll look at it,” said Harrington, adding that he would be “sweating” over the rankings. “I’ll watch it all day and analyze it to the Nth degree but I suppose I can’t do anything about it.”
Harrington only added Greensboro to his schedule after the second round of last week’s US PGA, when he realised that he might not do enough to move into the top 125 and was told by his wife Caroline to cancel the family holiday he’d booked in the Bahamas and to enter the Wyndham Championship instead.
Ranked 130th in the standings starting the week, he knows that he now has a chance to walk away with the $11m FedEx Cup jackpot.
The top 100 after The Barclays will progress to the Deutsche Bank Championship but with the points re-set this week, anyone can still win the big prize.
“If I have four good weeks I could win the FedEx Cup and have a great year and that’s what the Playoffs is about,” Harrington said as he awaited his fate. “It gives everybody who gets into them an opportunity and I’m just hoping I get that opportunity.”