Big Four fail to make PGA impression

Anticlimactic hardly begins to describe the whimper with which Ireland's Big Four closed out the final of golf's major championships.

Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington both limped across the finish line at the Atlanta Athletic Club at about the time that the leaders were teeing off at the first hole in the PGA Championship. The duo was part of a quintet that shared 64th place with 72-hole scores of 11-over-par 291. Keegan Bradley, who is of Irish descent, and Jason Dufner shot 272 before sorting matters out in a 3-hole playoff in Bradley's favor.

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As for Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell, they were long gone in the physical sense before Sunday dawned; in a competitive sense, they never arrived.

Events took an ominous turn for McIlroy on the third hole in the opening round when he made the ill-advised decision to strike his ball at full force while it rested against a tree route. That he'd brought physical discomfort upon himself wasn't in issue; whether he could soldier on with an injured wrist was.

He sought and received medical attention, and finished his round with a score of even-par 70.

"I thought if I could make contact with the ball and just let the club go, I might get away with it," McIlroy said as he analyzed the risk/reward aspects of his shot at the third hole. "In hindsight, it would have been better to chip out sideways."

Describing himself as performing at "70, 75" percent on Friday, McIlroy came back with 73. He shot 74s on the weekend. He bogeyed that third hole each of the first three days and posted triple-bogey 7 there on Sunday.

"To be honest, I'm glad to be done," McIlroy said after Sunday's round. "It was a struggle."

And the wrist?

"It's fine," McIlroy said. "To be honest, the swelling in the tendon went down. The pronator muscle is still a little sore, and going up into the medial ligament up into the inside of the elbow, so just a little bit of rest."

McIlroy indicated that he doesn't expect to return to the U.S. to compete until next February's Match Play Championships in Arizona.

Harrington recorded rounds of 73, 69, 75 and 74. The front nine had his number; eight of the 11 strokes he yielded to par came before the turn. Even when he exhibited championship form by notching four birdies as he did on Sunday, he coupled that with four bogeys and two doubles.

A "mentally tired" Clarke managed rounds of 78 and 76 to miss the cut by 10 strokes. He had no birdies among the 36 holes he played.

"I need a rest," Clarke said as he made his getaway on Friday. "I won't pick up the clubs for 10 days. I won't even look at them for 10 days."

McDowell did nothing to suggest that his game has turned a corner. Rounds of 74 and 78 left him well short of the mark needed to qualify for the weekend. Three double bogeys on Friday stained his performance.

"Bunker play wouldn't really be [my] strength at the best of times, but out of these traps, they are just unplayable," said McDowell as he analyzed his shortcomings. "So, [I] just can't score. This golf course, first and foremost, you have to drive [the ball] well to have a chance, and I just didn't do that.

"I just went chasing a little bit those last nine holes, and tried to fire at some pins and made a couple numbers. But disappointing. The game just is not there. You know, it's still a work in progress. Game is just kicking me right now. But, you kick on."

Clarke and McIlroy will meet up with Bradley and Charl Schwartzel in October's PGA Grand Slam, which reunites the year's four majors winners, in Bermuda.


The hottest Irish golfer on the planet right now? That would probably be Simon Thornton. One week after capturing the Irish PGA Championship at Seapoint, Thornton hied to Hauger Golf Klubb in Slattum, Norway for the Norwegian Challenge. Were it not for a couple of the finishing holes, he might very well have been clearing room for another trophy.

Thornton opened with a pedestrian 71, and really got going in the second round when he birdied 16, 17 and 18 to finish with 69. A score of 68 in Saturday's third round left him in second place, just a stroke off the lead.

Sunday's finale found Thornton even through 14 holes as he approached his nemesis, the 483-yard, par-4 15th hole. He'd bogeyed this hole each of the three preceding days and, alas, this time would be no different. He clawed back with birdie at 16, but surrendered with bogey at 17 for the second straight day.

His score of 73 gave him 281 for the event, which was seven strokes under par and two behind Andrea Pavan, who played the final two rounds with only one bogey in each. Pavan won a playoff with Florian Praegant for the championship.

Thornton, whose loss of six strokes at 15 and 17 more than accounted for the two shots he trailed the leaders by, settled for sole possession of fifth place. Niall Kearney finished joint-62nd at 291 (71-72-74-74). Colm Moriarty carded two rounds of even-par 72 to miss the cut by a stroke.