There are few better companions for a walk around a golf course than Padraig Harrington’s wife Caroline.
If you don’t believe me, just was William McGirt’s wife Sarah.
The man who made The Barclays as 125th of the 125 qualifiers came to the 17th at Plainfield Country Club blissfully unaware (because the electronic scoreboards had been removed for safety reasons) that he was ranked 101st in the FedEx Cup standings and needed a birdie to make it into the field for next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston.
The PGA Tour’s Helen Ross reports:
“Caroline told me to tell William that he needed to make a birdie,” Sarah McGirt recalled.
So Sarah used her fingers to flash the numbers 1-0-1 to her husband and his caddy. As if on cue, McGirt responded with what he called the “best swing I made all week — bar none” and coaxed a 7-iron within 6 feet. When he made the putt, McGirt became the last of eight hopefuls to played their way into the Deutsch Bank Championship.
“At that point, I needed to know,” McGirt said simply. “I asked Brandon, ‘Do we need one or not?’ And he looked over at Sarah.”
Harrington was one of the eight “bubble boys” (Poulter with a 64 was another) who joined McGirt (94th eventually) in the field for Boston at 80th in the standings after a disappointing, two under 69 in the third and final round of an event cut short by the threat of Hurricane Irene.
He was projected to move to 54th in the FedEx Cup race when he went into the final round tied for fifth, just four strokes behind Matt Kuchar on 10 under par.
But he had to birdie two of his last three holes to finish seven strokes behind eventual champion Dustin Johnson (65) in a share of 13th place as Graeme McDowell shot 68 for a share of 43rd on eight under and his passport to Boston in 84th in the FedEx.
Striking the ball well from tee to green, Harrington hasn’t changed his putter this week for nothing and he struggled with the short stick just when he needed it most as he took 30 putts and let several excellent birdie chances get away.
“Bit disappointing because where I was going out I was guaranteed the BMW [thrrd playoff event for the top 70] as well,” said Harrington, who will be playing in his sixth straight tournament at TPC Boston. “Now I have to go and work again this week.
“I was very happy with how I struck the ball this week - probably my best of the year of what I’ve seen. I didn’t chip the balll very well. I didn’t bunker it very well. Areas that are normally strong were weak this week. I’m looking forward to putting the two together next week.”
On a day when the objective was to go as low as possible in soft conditions on a short course, Harrington probably knew it wasn’t going to be his day when he missed birdie chances from 15 feet at the first and eight feet at the second.
When he bunkered his tee shot at the long, par-three third and missed from seven feet for par, his title challenge was over as he slipped six shots behind Johnson at that stage.
He holed a five footer at the next for birdie but he missed a 10 foot chance at the par-five fifth and an eight foot birdie chance at the 164-yard sixth.
He did birdie the ninth from nine feet to move into red figures for the first time all day but he was getting lapped by the field.
Brandt Snedeker started with five successive birdies and picked up another at the seventh to turn in 29 before picking up another four shots on the back nine to card a 61 that gave him a share of third place with Vijay Singh (68) on 16 under par and the sixth berth in the FedEx Cup rankings.
Johnson had an ealge two, five birdies and one bogey in an outward 29 as he moved a shot clear of overnight leader and defending champion Kuchar on 19 under.
But while he came home in level par, Kuchar followed a birdie at the 11th with a pair of three-putt bogeys at the 12th and 13th and finished two shots behind Johnson on 17 under after a 68.
Harrington continued to miss chances on the back nine - 11 feet at the 10th and seven feet at the 11th before three-putting the 13th from 60 feet for bogey to go back to level for the day.
he saved par from five feet after missing the green at the par three 14th and then eased any fears he might of had of missing out on the top 100 when he birdied the par-five 16th from 10 feet and the driveable 18th from just five after a trademark pitch from 48 yards.
The Dubliner now has a few days off before he tees off in the Deutsche Bank Championship on Friday.
In between he has a milestone to celebrate. On Wednesday he celebrates his 40th birthday.
When asked at the US PGA if he looked to the future with excitement or trepidation, he said: “Both.”
Right now he’s excited that his long game is looking good again. But after missing six birdie chances inside 10 feet, his fears are all too evident.