He didn’t win in the US for the first time in nearly six years. He didn’t even record his first Top-10 on the PGA Tour for 13 months. But Pádraig Harrington may well look back on the Byron Nelson Championship as a watershed performance in terms of getting his short game and putting back on track.
Despite the fact that a wild performance off the tee early in the day cost him his chance of winning big for first time since he captured the 2008 US PGA, the 42-year old looks as though he has turned a corner on and around the greens.
Despite hitting just three fairways in a four over 74 that left him tied for 22nd, 10 shots behind maiden winner Brendon Todd on four under, he can take a lot of positives into this week's BMW PGA at Wentworth having missed the cut in seven of his previous 11 starts.
Just two shots behind Todd and Louis Oosthuizen starting the day, he hit just one fairway on the front nine, mixing two birdies with two bogeys and a double bogey six to go out in 37 and fall six shots off the pace.
But even though he three-putted for the first time all week chasing a birdie at the 10th, he showed that his short game is getting back to its best when his 62-yard pitch to the 11th one-hopped straight into the cup — and freakishly popped out again.
He tapped in for birdie to get back to two over for the day and made another miraculous par save after overshooting the par-three 13th.
But as he feared on the eve of last night’s final round, it was always going to be a tough task to jump straight in at the deep end having struggled for form for so long.
“If I was being honest, I would say to you, generally you build yourself up for these things,” he said of his chances. “You go a few weeks of nice form – like Martin Kaymer; he played well before he got to Sawgrass — and generally that's how it happens.
“I'll try and take my chances if they come round. If not, it's where I want to be anyway and I've seen some good form in my game, some nice signs. So if it doesn't happen for me tomorrow, it's positive going forward.”
Harrington has been working so hard to get his short game back to its best that he took to Twitter for the first time last week, posting a picture of a hotel room window he broke at Bay Hill in March with the words: “500 reasons not to practice in your hotel.”
He frequently chips into the curtains at night but it was his driving that meant curtains for his hopes of winning last night and a nervy start, where he hooked a fairway metal into the crowd at the first, set the tone for the day.
Stymied by a tree, he went through the green with his approach but hit a fantastic 40 yard pitch that trickled down a tier to 15 feet from where he poured in the putt.
Forced to chip and putt for par at the short second and safely negotiating the third, where he had driven into the water on Friday and Saturday, he pulled his tee shot into the hazard at the fourth. He even took off his shoes and socks, almost feel in the water, but thought better of trying to play it and eventually took a penalty drop and saved a great bogey from seven feet.
A drive out of bounds at the sixth put paid to his title chances, however, as he ran up a double bogey six to fall six shots off the lead.
He hit back with a two-putt birdie at the seventh but bogeyed from the rough at the ninth to turn six shots behind co—leaders Marc Leishman and Brendon Todd.
Three-putts at 10th and poor drives at the 14th and 15th led to bogeys, though he did make that tap in birdie at the 11th.
He hit just three fairways in a 30-putt round as 28-year old American Todd shot a superb 66 to win by two shots from Harrington's 44-year old playing partner, Mike Weir, who had six birdies in a 67 to secure his card for next season.
Like Harrington, the former Masters champion has struggled for several years but can now look forward to PGA Tour golf again next season having used up all his exemptions to remain on tour this year.