Harrington's Masters hopes crushed by 79 (and finger cramps)
 Pádraig Harrington

Pádraig Harrington

Pádraig Harrington's tenuous hopes of qualifying for the Masters on merit ended on a sad note when he suffered finger cramps late in his second round  in the Shell Houston Open and shot a 79 to miss the cut by five shots.

As Rory McIlroy faded to a 71 to go into the weekend nine shots adrift of Sergio Garcia (65) in a tie for 27th on three under, Harrington's hopes of snatching the win he needed to avoid missing Augusta for the first time since he first qualified in 2000, all but ended when he made a triple bogey eight at the eighth.

One over for his round at that stage after following bogeys at the fifth and sixth and a birdie at the seventh, he slipped back to one over for the tournament as he turned in 40.

But whlle fought back early on the back nine with birdies at the 10th and 11th and another at the 13th after a bogey at the 12th, he was in physical difficulties by the end.

On the 15th tee he complained of cramps in a finger on his left hand and received treatment, allowing Phil Mickelson's group to play through.

Resuming with a three wood off the tee at the 600 yard, par-five, he carved it deep into the woods and ended up having to chip in for a bogey six after coming up short with his third and putting his fourth into a greenside trap.

The then bogeyed the tough 17th to slip outside the cut mark, missing a four and a half footer for par after bunkering his 195-yard approach. Needing a birdie at the last to have any chance of making the weekend, he made a triple bogey seven instead when he pulled his tee shot into the lake and knocked his third shot into the right rough and failed to hit the green in four.

Barring a miraculous invitation, Harrington will watch the Masters on TV for the first time since 1999 having missed the cut in five of his last eight starts and slipped from 53rd in the world 12 months ago to 164th this week.

Darren Clarke will be at Augusta to make his 500th European Tour apperance but he can now get there early after missing the cut by seven shots following a pair of 75s.

Garcia's 65 gave him a one-stroke lead over Matt Kuchar, who shot 67 with his first bogey of the week coming at the 18th.

McIlroy was disappointed he didn't push on after getting to five under for the tournament with eight holes to go.

He lost drives right at his 12th and 15th holes, leading to bogeys. But he is still happy with his game and hopes to shoot a couple of rounds in the mid-60s at the weekend to challenge Garcia before heading to the Masters.