Harrington survives air scare but scoring game still grounded

Harrington survives air scare but scoring game still grounded

Pádraig Harrington might be having trouble getting his career to take off again but not even a piece falling off his private plane could ground him in Las Vegas this week.

The Dubliner made a rare appearance on Twitter after opening with a one over 71 on a sponsors' invitation in the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island in Georgia.

Posting three pictures of a Hawker private jet with an engine cover missing, he wrote dramatically: "Shot 1-over today but still happy to be here. Have a look at what happened to the plane I was on, one hour into flight."

Harrington wasn't making a swift escape from Georgia after a fairly average day but referring to the air scare he suffered when heading from Las Vegas to Georgia last Sunday night.

Sponsors McGladrey laid on a jet for Harrington, who had a Pro-Am commitment with them on Monday (his payback for the invitation), to ferry him and some other players from the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to this week's venue.

As he explained in his Facebook diary: "I got here early Monday morning after an eventful trip from Vegas.  A few of us were sharing a plane over so that we could play the Monday pro-am and about an hour into the flight part of the engine cover came off and we had to turn back. Once we got back they were able to get a replacement part and we got going again."  

His wife Caroline explained that there was no real cause for alarm, though it's not the first time he's had problems with planes since he put his own jet up for sale (it's still for sale by the way).

"The plane destabilised for a very short period of time until they realised what happened and then they just returned to Las Vegas," she said.  "There was another Hawker jet on the tarmac there and they took the piece off that and put it onto their plane and flew off to Sea Island again.

"He didn't really get much of a fright, I don't think, because on a private jet that size you can see the pilots and they didn't appear to be worried."

In 2012, Harrington was on an Etihad Airways A330-200 taxiing down the runway to prepare for take-off for Dublin when the left tyre on its front landing gear punctured, shattering lights on the airport's main runway, leading to massive delays.

Whatever about last Sunday, Harrington will be hoping he's not booking an early flight home to Dublin today.

While his putting has improved, he's not putting scores on the board and the occasional errant tee shot is costing him dear.

A drive left on the fourth forced him to take a penalty drop and led to his first bogey of the day.

Having holed out well early on, he missed his first clear cut birdie chance from 10 feet at the par-three sixth but birdied the par-five seventh from 13 feet to get back to level.

A good two-putt from 72 feet at the ninth saw him turn in level but after saving par from five feet at the 10th, he bogeyed the 223-yard 12th, where he came up short with his tee shot and didn't make the green with his chip.

He holed from just off the green for par at the next but bogeyed the 14th after another pulled drive led to yet another penalty drop.

A pitch to three feet set up a much-needed birdie at the par-five 15th but he couldn't find a birdie coming home, missing his best chance from 10 feet at the 18th.

Scoring was still bunched at Sea Island with Harrington ending his day outside the projected cut mark and six shots behind a quartet of leaders — Brian Harman, Michael Thompson, Erik Compton and Will MacKenzie — who shot six under 65s.

Even if he misses the cut on Friday before heading back to the US next month to conclude 2014 at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi and the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Mexico , he's sure to be back home on his range in Dublin next week.

As Golf Punk showed in a Facebook post on Thursday, Harrington has a great outdoor practice facility, complete with a variety of target greens, putting greens and bunkers. He can even hit longer shots over the corner of his house into a neighbouring farmer's field (see below)

Harrington missed the three-round cut at the Shriners for Children Hospitals Open in Las Vegas last Saturday as he tries to get a head start on winning back his full playing rights in the US by playing four 2014-15 season events before Christmas.

He didn't qualify for the European Tour's Final Series and he has opted not to use a one-time career money winners exemption in the US unless he has to and will rely instead on his status and sponsors' invitations for the 2014-15 season.

So far, his improved putting has failed  to yield much in the way of results, though as he's said numbers times since changing his routine and his putter during his recent run in Europe, he's optimistic.