Harrington waiting for confidence - and his caddie
Photographer Pat Cashman stepped into the breach to caddie when Ronan Flood fell ill in Durban. Picture via twitter.com/european_tour

Photographer Pat Cashman stepped into the breach to caddie when Ronan Flood fell ill in Durban. Picture via twitter.com/european_tour

Padraig Harrington is making plenty of headlines this week but not quite the way he had hoped.

On Wednesday, he was telling reporters how his wife Caroline had banned him from trying the world's tallest swing at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Following his opening 71, which featured some indifferent putting over the opening holes, he explained how his caddie Ronan Flood gave him an early wake up call.

"I was getting some early lectures off my caddie," he told the Irish Independent. "Like, 'it's early in the year to be starting this'."

On Friday he shot another 71 but this time Flood lasted just six holes before collapsing due to dehydration and possible food poisoning. 

He was replaced by former Irish Press photographer Pat Cashman, a regular visitor to South Africa and currently a freelance with contracts with the GUI and the ILGU, who just happened to be spectating.

The 65-year old took over from his fellow Hermitage clubman and according to Harrington, did a sterling job.

Pádraig Harrington carries out some caddying duties for Jamie Donaldson on the 18th.

"Ronan felt like he needed to throw up and as he went out on the course he thought it would clear a bit but it got worse and worse and for him to give up," Harrington explained. "I don't think I have ever seen him do that in any circumstances.

"He felt like he was getting in the way and when we finally said goodbye he could not physically stand up. I really did feel bad because he was lying there but thankfully there was a friend of ours out there who holidays down here and he took over.

"He started off like he was carrying bows and arrows but by the end he had the double-strap going (on the bag) and was using all the lingo.

"It's amazing how much caddies do for you and it gives you a new appreciation for what they do out there. I know now why we pay them the big bucks!"

Flood was taken to the clubhouse to be treated by a doctor and is expected to be fit to resume his duties on Saturday, although stand-in Cashman has offered his services if required.

"The bag was lighter than I expected," Pat said. "It was very comfortable. I saw Ronan on the range and he looked awful. I said if you need help, call me. 

"They sent out a replacement caddie but Padraig asked if I would be happy to continue and I was. I told him I wouldn't give him a line or a club but he was so easy to work for.

"I've given him my phone number if he needs me but hopefully Ronan will be okay."

Harrington revealed how Cashman quickly realised that he doesn't like to hear his caddie "talking to my golf ball."

When the subject turned to his golf, Harrington was not quite as enthusiastic as he was about his "new" caddie. His confidence in his chipping and putting remains at a low ebb.

A double bogey seven at the eighth erased two early birdies and while he came home in one under thanks to a birdie at the 18th, he had two bogeys to go with his three back-nine birdies.

Darren Clarke made this fine up and down to save par on the 18th

Darren Clarke made this fine up and down to save par on the 18th

Five strokes behind leaders Joost Luiten, Louis Oosthuizen and Tommy Fleetwood on two under par, he assessed the state of his game with a sigh and a deep breath and said: "I see some bright sparks at times.

"This week is about putting it all together and I was very happy with the way I was hitting the ball at the end of last year. I'd be happy if at the end of this week I am hitting it like I was hitting it at the end of last year, just with a better short game.

"Putting and chipping - I just need to have a bit more confidence in it."

As Luiten made an albatross two at the 10th - he holed a four-iron from 248 yards  en route to a 67 and a share of the lead - Darren Clarke failed to build on a fast start, though a 71 left him just three strokes off the pace in a share of sixth on four under.

Three birdies in the first four holes and another at the eighth following a bogey at the sixth gave the Dungannon native a share of the lead on six under.

But the now slimline 45-year old played his last eight holes in two over par, dropping shots at the 11th and 14th before doing well to save par at the last.

His three-wood ended up left of the green, leaving him a tough pitch over the greenside bunker.

Joost Luiten in action at Durban Country Club. Picture © Volvo in Golf

Joost Luiten in action at Durban Country Club. Picture © Volvo in Golf

Opting to play a a high, cut up shot, he came up short and plugged in the sand but did well to hole a six footer for his par-four.

Simon Thornton is tied for 11th with Harrington on two under after a level par 72 with Michael Hoey's bogey-bogey finish for a 73 leaving him joint 20th in the 36-man field on one-over.

As for Luiten's albatross, the Dutchman said: “I hit a four‑iron and basically went straight at it, and it just pitched exactly where I wanted.

“I wanted it just to the front of the green, and then hopefully to release up the slope and that's what it did.  It went straight at the pin and it went in.  It was a good feeling.

“At seven under for the tournament, I’m in a great position for the weekend and I just need to keep on playing.  It's very tough out there.  You just need to make pars and sometimes you have to sneak in a birdie or an albatross - that will help.”

Home favourite Oosthuizen carded four birdies and one bogey over the first ten holes before ending with eight consecutive pars as the former Open Champion signed for a three under par 69 to boost his hopes of retaining the title he won at the same venue 12 months ago.

Fleetwood, who earned his place in the 36-man field for the European Tour’s ‘tournament of champions’ by winning the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles last August, posted a round of 67.

Frenchman Victor Dubuisson is a shot behind the leading trio on six under par following a an up and down round of 69.

Italian Matteo Manassero also moved into contention in fifth position on five under par with a round of 67, while former Open champion Clarke (71) and joint overnight leader Raphaël Jacquelin of France (73) share sixth on four under par.  

Volvo Golf Champions at Durban Country Club (par 72)

137 J Luiten (Ned) 70 67, T Fleetwood  (Eng) 70 67, L Oosthuizen  (RSA) 68 69,

138 V Dubuisson  (Fra) 69 69,

139 M Manassero (Ita) 72 67,

140 D Clarke (Nir) 69 71, R Jacquelin (Fra) 67 73,

141 B Grace  (RSA) 74 67, M Siem  (Ger) 70 71, C Wood  (Eng) 70 71,

142 D Van Der Walt (RSA) 71 71, J Donaldson (Wal) 71 71, P Harrington (Irl) 71 71, S Thornton (Irl) 70 72,

143 C Schwartzel  (RSA) 74 69, B Rumford (Aus) 73 70,

144 D Fichardt (RSA) 73 71, T Aiken (RSA) 72 72, C Montgomerie  (Sco) 70 74,

145 D Howell (Eng) 76 69, M Hoey  (Nir) 72 73, R Sterne  (RSA) 72 73, D Lynn (Eng) 71 74, M Madsen  (Den) 71 74,

146 M Jiménez (Esp) 76 70, R Karlsson (Swe) 74 72, M Ilonen  (Fin) 73 73,

147 T Björn (Den) 79 68, J Quesne  (Fra) 74 73, G Fernandez-Castaño  (Esp) 74 73, S Gallacher (Sco) 73 74, P Casey  (Eng) 72 75,

148 P Uihlein  (USA) 70 78,

149 K Aphibarnrat (Tha) 75 74, J Jeong (Kor) 73 76,

150 J Olazábal (Esp) 73 77.