By John Manley
The Irish trio of Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy weren't to be found inside the ropes at Augusta National last weekend, as they each missed the cut in the Masters. Harrington was widely quoted before the event saying that he was grateful not to have been paired with the prodigal Tiger Woods, as the specter of dealing with the extra-large galleries and attendant hoopla can take a toll on his playing partners and that they often don't last to the weekend.
Instead, Harrington found himself teeing off on Thursday and Friday with Stewart Cink, someone who has had Harrington's number in several match play scenarios over recent years. And as for Woods's playing partners in the first two rounds - K.J. Choi and Matt Kuchar - they both made the cut.
McDowell dug his hole deeply on the front nine on Thursday, carding a pair of double bogeys to go with an offsetting birdie and bogey. After bogeys at 10 and 12, he righted himself with three birdies to finish the day at 75. He appeared to be on the right path on Friday, when he carded three birdies against a bogey on the front nine, but, again, double bogeys (at 10 and 15) spelled his doom. He shot 74 on Friday and his 149 was two strokes over the cut line.
Harrington wasn't as given to the jarring effects of giving up two strokes in a single frame, but he wasn't able to convert many birdie opportunities. Four of his five birdies over the two days he played came on par-5s. He bogeyed the par-3 fourth hole and par-4 18th both days, and collected a double bogey each day.
This continues a disappointing run of failure in major championships for Harrington, who has confessed that he sometimes finds it hard to rev his engine for ordinary tournaments. Since winning the 2008 PGA, he has been a non-threatening 35th in last year's Masters, following which he missed the cut in the U.S. Open. After finishing well back in the British Open, he was back in the swing for 54 holes of last year's PGA, but then shot 78 on Sunday to drop into 10th place.
Similarly, McIlroy never found a rhythm. After a birdie at the third hole on Thursday, he reeled off four bogeys before getting a stroke back at 14. He played the next 10 holes evenly, but went double bogey-bogey at the seventh and eighth on Friday, adding further bogeys at 14 and 16 to finish the round at 77. With Thursday's 74, his 151 was four strokes too many.
Michael Hoey tied for sixth place in the Madeira Islands Open at Porto Santo Golfe in Portugal. He shot 11-under-par 277 (72-68-69-68), which left him nine strokes behind the victorious James Morrison.
Simon Thornton got a share of 13th place at 280 (68-66-71-75). The 9 that he carded at the 10th hole on Sunday damaged his standing, although he answered back with birdies at 11 and 12.
Niall Turner finished 28th at this Tour's Winter Championship at Encanterra Country Club in Arizona on Saturday. At 293 (76-70-71-76) for the event, he finished five strokes over par and 18 behind medalist Charlie Beljan. Turner earned $1,200.