Padraig Harrington’s black cap might have sported the logo of one of the technology start-ups he invests in to keep himself entertained away from the course - Shaderlight, a 3D rendering company - but the head underneath was certainly elsewhere as he collapsed over the last five holes at Spyglass Hill to severely dent his chances of victory in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Playing at a spectacularly beautiful venue named in tribute to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel, Treasure Island, Harrington ended up in a lonely place as he turned a potential 67 or 68 into a level par 72 to slip seven shots behind South Korea’s Charlie Wi entering the final round of an event he must win if he is to make the top 65 in the world before tonight’s qualifying deadline for the forthcoming WGC-Accenture Match Play.
A dream, final day appointment with a resurgent Tiger Woods beckoned for the three-time major winner after he built on his brilliant second round 66 at Pebble Beach by picking up four birdies in an immaculate opening 12 holes
After birdies at the 10th and 11th, he made birdie two’s at the short 15th and third holes at Spyglass Hill to take solo second place on 12 under at one stage, three adrift of the leader.
With Wi posting a 69 on the same track to lead on 15 under, Harrington had a chance to close the gap further before the finish. Instead, he went backwards at an alarming rate.
First he bunkered his tee shot to the 197-yard fifth and bogeyed there. And while he got up and down for par at the sixth, he failed to set foot on the fairway for the entire length of the par-five seventh and dropped another stroke to par
Worse was to come at the 399-yard eighth, the toughest hole on the course, where he hit a wayward drive and three-putted for a double bogey six that set him back to eight under par.
According to the course guide:
“Signal Hill is, perhaps, the longest hole under 400 yards in the world. The second shot is even more uphill than the tee shot. The green is elevated and crowned with the hole’s only bunker protecting its right side. This is Spyglass Hill’s number one handicap hole.”
His short game saved him at the ninth, where he again got up and down for par. But after hitting just two back nine fairways, the damage had already been done and Harrington had written another chapter in his growing list of weekend reverses of recent years.
Where the 40-year old goes from here, apart from Pebble Beach today and Riviera next week, is anyone’s guess. How long can he continue to take the disappointments before a tournament even reaches the back nine on Sunday? If he doesn’t win, I don’t expect to hear him sounds anything other than optimistic about his game going forward.
Wi, who turned 40 last month, has four second places finishes but no wins on the PGA Tour. He did win the 54-hole Maybank Malaysian Open in 2006, closing with a 63 to finish one shot clear of Thongchai Jaidee with Harrington back in 13th after a 67.
“I’m sure I won’t sleep as well as if I was in 50th place,” said Wi. “But that’s what we play for, and I’m really excited. I’m sure I’ll be fighting my demons all day tomorrow. How I handle myself is going to determine the outcome of the tournament, not how other players are doing.”
Harrington may need at least a 67 at Pebble Beach Golf Links today to have any chance of winning with Wi three strokes clear of American journeyman Ken Duke on 15 under par.
The bad news for the Irish star is that there is a host of top players waiting to pounce on the top-two, headed by Woods, who is just four behind Wi on 11 under after shooting a five under 67 at Pebble Beach yesterday.
“I didn’t hit it as well as I did the last two days but made some more putts and really managed my game well today,” said Woods, who is seeking his first official win for more than two years.
The former world No 1 and his partner Tony Romo will go out with Phil Mickelson and his amateur partner in the second last group with the left-hander one of five players tied for fourth, six off the pace, on nine under.
The left-hander shot a 70 at Pebble Beach to share fourth place on nine under with Kevin Na, twice former champion Dustin Johnson, Brendon Todd and Hunter Mahan.
Harrington is in a three-man tie for ninth with Bob Estes and Ricky Barnes on eight under. But he has other things to occupy his mind in the final round without having to worry about Wi, Woods and Co.
With amateur pal JP McManus - arguably the best 14-handicapper in the world - the Irish pair leads the Pro-Am competition by three shots on 31 under afer rounds of 57, 60 and 66. Dermot Desmond and Charley Hoffman missed the cut for the top 25 teams by two shots.
Irish businessman Dermot Desmond fired a 67 with professional Charley Hoffman but missed the cut for the top 25 teams by two shots.
Harrington and McManus will be joined in fifth last group by Ricky Barnes and American football coach Bill Belichock of the New England Patriots, the side beaten by the New York Giants in last week’s Superbowl.
Harrington must win to be sure of hauling himself from 93rd in the world into the top 65 who will qualify for the Accenture Match Play following tonight’s final round.
See the attached file for a breakdown of what the players on the bubble must do to qualify.