Padraig Harrington’s hopes of winning The Barclays and keeping his slim Ryder Cup wildcard hopes alive were dealt a near fatal blow when he crashed to a four over 75 to fall five shots behind leaders Sergio Garcia and Nick Watney at Bethpage State Park in New York.
Even before he teed off on the back nine on the feared Black Course, the Dubliner was reminded by European skipper Jose Maria Olazábal that he needs to do “extraordinarily well” to earn one of two wildcards on Monday.
While insisting that he bears Harrington no ill will over the 2003 Seve Trophy row - “If that was the case, I would be failing as a captain. So that is a lot of B.S., that’s putting it gently” - the Spaniard is still looking for a win from the three-time major winner, more out than in at this stage.
Putting it bluntly, again, Olazabal added: “He is an experienced player, obviously. But at the moment he has not been able to deliver. Period. Simple as that.”
Olazábal was just as blunt in his assessement of Harrington’s game at the US PGA two weeks ago, explaining: “From tee‑to‑green, his game has been fairly good, but I think his putting has let him down this year so far.”
Yesterday, Harrington failed to deliver in both departments and we are now left wondering if we are watching a re-run of last March’s Transitions, where he putted the lights out and opened with an amazing 61 only to fade to tied 20th with rounds of 73, 72 and 71.
Having missed just one fairway and one green in an opening 64 featuring just 26 putts, he hit only 10 greens and eight fairways in far tougher afternoon conditions yesterday.
The Harrington of old might have scrambled his way to a level par round, or better, but the 2012 version had a bad day on the greens again.
He used the blade 33 times, three-putting once. His solitary birdie was from 18 inches, courtesy of two putts on the par-five seventh, his 16th.
It could turn out to be an important stroke considering he is just five shots off the lead and still tied 16th. After all, this is the man who was six strokes behind Garcia after both 36 and 54 holes in the 2007 Open at Carnoustie and went on to win.
Five years on from that maiden major win, 41-year old Harrington looks a more brittle golfer and he was unable to make up for some poor striking with some trademark short game magic.
The good news for die-hard Harrington supporters - and New York is full of them - is that he is still alive in this tournament.
However, he needs a special third round to get back into the mix and challenge his old adversary Garcia for his first US victory for more than four years.
Starting at the 10th, he bogeyed his first three holes and then dropped further shots at the 15th and 17th (three-putts) to turn in five over 40 - 11 shots worse than he managed over the same stretch to equal the course record with that first round 64.
Five over par for the day and struggling from tee to green, he parred the first four holes on the front nine to stop the rot. But with an ice cold putter holding him back, he was stopped cold at the fifth when he hit a short iron to two feet 10 inches and missed the birdie putt.
While he birdied the par-five seventh, cosying his 28 foot eagle try to 18 inches, he finished his day five shots behind clubhouse leaders Watney (69) and Garcia (68) on three under.
They are a shot clear of Vijay Singh and Bob Estes on eight under as Tiger Woods battled a sore back to fire a 69 that left him just three strokes off the pace in a tie for seventh
Playing partner Rory McIlroy recovered from four bogeys in his first eight holes to card a two over 73 that left him just inside the one-over par cut mark n level par but Graeme McDowell missed the cut on four over after a 71.