Harrington impossible to ignore

By Associated PressAugust 12, 2008, 4:00 pm
2008 US Open 81x90BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. ' Not long after Tiger Woods announced he was done for the year because of knee surgery, the search began for the player who could dominate golf in his absence, especially the final two majors.
 
Padraig Harrington didnt make too many short lists.
 
Most eyes were on Phil Mickelson, No. 2 in the world with three majors among his 35 victories around the world. Maybe it was time for Ernie Els to emerge anew, especially now that Woods wasnt around to break his heart. Youth focused on Sergio Garcia, a phenomenal talent who had captured the next best thing to a major at The Players Championship.
 
Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington is closing in on Phil Mickelson as the No. 2 ranked player in the world. (Getty Images)
Harrington provided the answer not once, but twice.
 
First came his four-shot victory in the British Open, where he shot 32 on the back nine in 35 mph wind at Royal Birkdale. One month later, Harrington awoke from a daze to win the PGA Championship with a 66-66 at Oakland Hills.
 
That gave him three of the last six majors ' only Woods has won that many so quickly in the last 25 years.
 
And instead of asking whether he could fill the void, the question now is whether Harrington can challenge Woods when he returns.
 
Its a good situation that you can ask that question, Harrington said. I have probably been the leading player in Europe for close to six years. It is a big step now to move up and start competing on a different level. Ive got Phil. Ive got Tiger ahead of me. I dont necessarily pay attention to what theyre doing. I pay attention to more what Im doing.
 
That might be one reason why Harrington presents such a threat.
 
He works as hard on his game as anyone, even though Vijay Singh gets the credit as the hardest-working man in golf. Harrington has never been one to be so consumed with results and rankings to abandon the process of getting better. Remember, he went a full year without winning between his consecutive British Open titles.
 
Many periods in my career, Ive had lulls where Ive been in between things and come out stronger, he said after his two-shot victory over Sergio Garcia and Ben Curtis. Im looking at this period as one of those that I am coming out stronger with experience, and Im putting a lot more things together. Im making things happen on the golf course.
 
Thats what happened Sunday.
 
Harrington was three shots behind Garcia at the turn, having watched the Spaniard make a remarkable par with a long bunker shot on the eighth, and an even better par from across the green on the monstrous par-3 ninth.
 
But thats when the teeth pinched forward, the tongue stuck out of the corner of his mouth, signs that he was pouring everything into every shot. He birdied the 10th from 15 feet, hit 5-wood out of the rough and just over the green on the par-5 12th to set up another birdie, then tied Garcia for the lead with a 12-foot birdie on the 13th.
 
Harrington played 27 holes Sunday in the rain-delayed PGA Championship. He one-putted 14 times, and took only 11 putts over his final nine holes. None were as meaningful as the last three, when he saved par with a 12-foot putt on the 16th to tie Garcia again, took the lead with a 10-foot birdie on the 17th as Garcia missed from 4 feet, and got his name on the Wanamaker Trophy with a 15-foot par on No. 18.
 
It was the stuff of major champions. It was the kind of putts Woods routinely makes when he wins majors.
 
Its a long way to catch Tiger at the top, Harrington said. But I know that the only way of focusing on doing that is focusing on me, controlling what I can do. Thats the only thing I can ask of myself.
 
It is impossible to ignore Harrington now.
 
When Europe had gone through eight lean years without a major, it was Harrington who ended the streak with his playoff victory last year at Carnoustie. Not since 1905-06 had a European won the British Open in consecutive years until the Irishman won at Royal Birkdale.
 
Tommy Armour was the last European to win the PGA Championship in 1930 until Harrington won at Oakland Hills.
 
And he even carved out history all to himself Sunday as the first European to win consecutive majors.
 
I obviously hold a lot of European players who I grew up watching in high esteem, Harrington said. To believe that I achieved something they hadnt is very special.
 
More accolades could follow.
 
Even though Woods won four of the six PGA TOUR events he entered and captured a 14th career major at the U.S. Open on one good leg, Harrington presents a strong challenge as PGA TOUR player of the year. No one has ever won two majors in the same season without getting voted the award by the players.
 
He is virtually a lock to win the points-based award from the PGA of America unless Mickelson or Masters champion Trevor Immelman wins every tournament they enter, including the Fall Series.
 
And to think it all began with a loss no one remembers.
 
Harrington had a chance to win his first major in the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. He played bogey-free for the first 15 holes until making bogey on the final three to shoot 71 and finish two shots behind.
 
I dodged a bullet because there was some more high-profile losers that day, he said, referring to Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie. But I walked away from that tournament knowing I could win a major. And youve got to lose them to know you can win them. Ive got to put myself in the position and learn from it and understand it before I actually go and do it.
 
Thats what Garcia needs to do before he can join the elite. In the meantime, Harrington has rightfully taken his place.
 
There is no denying that.
 
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    J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

    Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda fired eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record at the tournament.


    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


    Korda, who is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda, leads fellow American Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under.

    Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

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    Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

    By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

    Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

    ''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

    Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

    Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

    ''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

    It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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    Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

    Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

    The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

    ''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

    PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

    Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

    ''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

    It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

    He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

    ''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

    Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

    Later, he laughed about the moment.

    ''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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    Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

    By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

    Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

    Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

    The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

    “They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

    The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

    “Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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    Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

    “As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

    Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

    “Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.

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    McIlroy, Scott have forgettable finish at Honda

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 22, 2018, 11:03 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rory McIlroy and the rest of his group had a forgettable end to their rounds Thursday at the Honda Classic.

    McIlroy was even par for the day and looking for one final birdie to end his opening round. Only two players had reached the par-5 finishing hole, but McIlroy tried to hold a 3-wood up against the wind from 268 yards away. It found the water, leading to a double bogey and a round of 2-over 72.  

    “It was the right shot,” McIlroy said. “I just didn’t execute it the right way.”

    He wasn’t the only player to struggle coming home.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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    Adam Scott, who won here in 2016, found the water on both par 3s in the Bear Trap, Nos. 15 and 17. He made double on 15, then triple on 17, after his shot from the drop area went long, then he failed to get up and down. He shot 73, spoiling a solid round.

    The third player in the group, Padraig Harrington, made a mess of the 16th hole, taking a triple.

    The group played the last four holes in a combined 10 over.