Harrington's calvary continues in Texas
Pádraig Harrington lines up a putt during the recent Honda Classic. Picture Fran Caffrey:  www.golffile.ie

Pádraig Harrington lines up a putt during the recent Honda Classic. Picture Fran Caffrey: www.golffile.ie

He hasn't played enough rounds to be ranked but after opening with a four over 76 in the fog-delayed Valero Texas Open it's clear that Pádraig Harrington would be close to the bottom of the putting statistics on the PGA Tour so far this year.

The Dubliner had 32 putts and two three-putts and played the four par-fives  at TPC San Antonio in four over par to end his day eight strokes behind clubhouse leaders Pat Perez and Danny Lee.

Harrington must win this week or at next week's Shell Houston Open to avoid missing the Masters Tournament for the first time since his debut in 2000. 

But his putting and his approach play with his wedges is so unpredictable — he would be ranked around 100th for the accuracy of his approach from 50-125 yards — that a return trip to Augusta National looks improbable right now.

There have been signs in many tournaments this year that the three-time major winner is close to putting it all together. But the good runs have almost always been undone by one or two bad holes or inopportune errors on the greens.

Pádraig Harrington used the fat grip in San Antonio on Thursday.

Pádraig Harrington used the fat grip in San Antonio on Thursday.

Despite opting for the fat-grip (see picture left) on his putter this week — "I might as well try something new" he was quoted as saying in the build up — Harrington still struggled.

His putting average in the strokes gained category is negative (-.613), which would leave him around 160th on the tour, between Stewart Cink and Vijay Singh. In San Antonio last night he averaged -2.366 compared to +4.042 for Perez, who birdied his last three holes.

It will be of little consolation to 42-year old Harrington that Open champion Phil Mickelson fared even worse, shooting a five over 77 that featured his third three-putt of a 33-putt day from just 11 feet at his final hole.

Harrington's day began with a three-putt from less than 30 feet for a bogey at the par-five second. But after missing a good chance at the fifth, he birdied the sixth thanks to a 124-yard approach to four feet. 

A bad tee shot at the 600-yard eight led to a double bogey seven and when he three-putted the ninth from 55 feet after missing the fairway, he was out in three over 39 and battling.

It had already been a long day for Harrington, who would have risen around 4.30am for his early morning tee time only to be delayed until 10.20am by the fog.

Playing with Aaron Baddeley (70) and William McGirt (72), he then bogeyed the 10th by missing the fairway and a four-foot par putt.

He nearly holed a wedge from 123 yards at the 12th to get back to three over but hit a poor chip at the long, par-three 13th and bogeyed again.

He had an eight foot chance to get a shot back at the par-five 14th but while he missed that, he holed a 10 footer for a nice birdie at the 375-yard 17th before handing it straight back with a  bogey six at the last, where he put his third in greenside sand from just over 120 yards and was stunned to see his approach fly 30 feet past the pin.

Ironically, playing partner Baddeley was in the same bunker but having left his first attempt in the sand, he holed his next effort for an unlikely par.