Harrington scaled

Harrington finds his game in the desert

Padraig Harrington on the 16th on Day 2 at the Irish Open, Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort, Ballymena, Co. Antrim, on Sept. 25, 2020. In this week’s print/digital edition (Page 26), out Wednesday, John Manley looks at what will be a pivotal year for Europe’s Ryder Cup captain.

By John Manley

This year’s links theme seems to be Back to the Future. One week after Darren Clarke won his second consecutive tournament among the senior set, along comes Padraig Harrington with his finest performance in three years. He didn’t win the Dubai Desert Classic, but his joint-sixth was his best showing since getting fifth place in the 2018 KLM Open.

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Harrington combined rounds of 71, 69, 69 and 70 to finish nine strokes under par for the event and eight in back of champion Paul Casey. He had his finest moment in the second round, when he recovered from a double-bogey 6 at the first hole by issuing four consecutive birdies. That string was broken by bogey at the sixth, a hole that proved his biggest nemesis over the four days as he lost three strokes to par there.

Shane Lowry stood on equal terrain with Harrington after the third round, but fell victim to a closing 75 that saw him plummet to a share of 27th place at 4-under. Rounds of 70 and 72 featured only two bogeys each, and Saturday’s 67 was without blemish. So, Sunday’s round, in which he posted six bogeys, came as something of an unpleasant surprise.

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Graeme McDowell was five strokes over the cut line after rounds of 76 and 73.

Lowry and McDowell will remain in the Middle East for this week’s Saudi International, where they will be joined by Paul Dunne and Cormac Sharvin, making their 2021 debuts.

PGA TOUR

Rory McIlroy had another week of reaching contention only to fall short on Sunday. This time the venue was San Diego’s Torrey Pines, site of the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rounds of 68, 70 and 71 placed McIlroy three strokes off the lead shared by Carlos Ortiz and Patrick Reed heading into Sunday. He closed to within two at the turn in the finale, but then bogeyed 10 and 13. He got a stroke back at 14, but a double bogey-6 at 15 finished him off. His 73 pushed him down into a tie for 16th place, eight strokes off Reed’s winning total.

McIlroy’s putting wasn’t as crisp as it needed to be in order to post the scores necessary to threaten Reed, who won the Farmers by five strokes. He gave himself good looks at birdie thanks to his iron play, and he seemed to have the distance down on the Torrey Pines greens, but the ball too often seemed not to break as he envisioned.

McIlroy will now give the Waste Management Open in Phoenix a try this week. He has yet to play this event, which has basically been a bacchanal at which a golf tournament gets squeezed in. While this year’s rendition may seem tame due to Covid-19 restrictions, the venue will allow spectators and how they comport themselves is anyone’s guess. Harrington is also in the field.