Harrington Makes a Major Change

By Mercer BaggsMarch 9, 2005, 5:00 pm
2005 Honda ClassicPadraig Harrington is a man meticulous in manner. Some might call him slow, but Harrington would rather refer to himself as deliberate. Having such a demeanor, and an attention for detail, one might think that he does his own handiwork around the house.
Thats not one of my skills, he said. But my skill is know that its not one of my skills.
Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington has never played in more than 12 events during a single season on the PGA Tour.
Fortunately for Harrington, there were no home improvement projects to work on while he sat around his Dublin abode for over two months between his final tournament of 2004 and his first in 2005.
So what does a world-class golfer do with nine weeks off?
I got in the gym ' tried to do as much as I could in the gym during that break. And I did practice, go and see my coach. But mainly I took time off and shot pool, played table tennis, pinball, darts ' everything I could get a hold of. Just chilled out, really, he said.
There was a time, not so long ago, that such layoff would strike fear into Harringtons professional heart. Ever the insecure Irishman, Harrington used to wonder if his talent ' which was built on a foundation of diligence and hard work ' would suddenly just vanish.
But over the years, Harrington has learned such is not the case. When you win eight times in five years on the European Tour, and you establish yourself as a fixture in and around the top 10 in the world ranking, your prowess doesnt simply abandon you (well, not usually).
So with that understanding, Harrington chilled for nine weeks in an effort to store energy for an aggressive run at this seasons major championships ' particularly the first two.
By the time the U.S. Open came around last year, I had only played eight or nine events at that stage, Harrington said. So this year, Ive added an extra three or four (tournaments). So its just to get myself more competitive for (the first two majors).
When Harrington steps foot on the grounds of Pinehurst No. 2 for this years U.S. Open, he will have 10 PGA Tour events under his belt for the season. He will have also played in at least four European Tour events.
Thanks to being a member of the 2004 European Ryder Cup team, Harrington has been afforded the opportunity to compete this season as a PGA Tour member. Hes taken the tour up on that offer and plans on playing in no less than the required 15 tournaments to maintain membership (he played in 12 last year).
To do that, hes added five tournaments to his U.S. schedule and subtracted one. He included the Ford Championship and this weeks Honda Classic on his pre-Masters tournament list (which also includes the WGC-Match Play, The Players Championship and the BellSouth Classic). He also tacked on the Shell Houston Open, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and the Wachovia Championship leading up to the U.S. Open (hell also play in the Buick Classic).
The Memorial Tournament, which is two weeks prior to Pinehurst, is the only PGA Tour event Harrington has dropped from his 04 schedule. Instead, hell compete in a couple of European Tour events around that time (he has to play in at least 11 to maintain his status there).
Harrington, who travels with his wife, Caroline, and his 19-month-old son, Patrick, is still in the process of rust shaking as he enters this weeks stop in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He finished runner-up in his 05 debut at the Omega Hong Kong Open, and then tied for eighth at the Carlsberg Malaysian Open.
Stateside, he lost in the second round of the Match Play and tied for 52nd at Doral.
Harrington is well aware that his playing schedule is top heavy. But he doesnt seem too concerned. He has one thing in mind this season: contending for major championships. Hes tried it the other way; now hes giving this a shot.
Im playing more in the early part of the year in order to be more competitive for the majors, yes, he said. I would have thought the schedule I had last year was nice for peaking for the majors, except I hadnt played enough.
Im getting to a point in my career where you are measured by your success in majors. Hopefully, I'm getting to the stage where I can compete from Day 1, all four days, and get myself in a position on Sunday to win.
Harrington has had his share of semi-major success in the majors. He has four top-5 finishes and has been runner-up each of the last two years at The Players Championship.
But he hasnt yet won. And, for that matter, neither has anyone from the European continent since Scotsman Paul Lawrie in the 1999 British Open.
And now that Phil Mickelson no longer wears the Best Player Never to Have Won a Major yoke, that burden seems to fall upon the shoulders of several European players who currently reside in the top 20 in the world; most notably: Sergio Garcia, Darren Clarke and Harrington.
I think a lot of the guys that havent won a major that are up in that category are European, Harrington said. I think the Europeans will address that in the next number of years; theres enough good young players coming out that it will happen.
As for his place in that group?
I obviously wouldnt put myself in that league, but thank you for putting me in it, he said in response to a question posed to him at the Match Play Championship, asking if he is currently the best player not to have won a major.
I take it as a compliment, though. Its nice to be considered in that group.
After a decade of playing professionally, Harrington has accomplished enough to where a major title is one of the few glaring omissions from his resume. Another would be a PGA Tour victory.
Hes captured the unofficial 2002 Target World Challenge in California and won the 1997 WGC-World Cup with Paul McGinley at Kiawah Island.
But, in official tour events, he hasnt been able to shed that Runner-up gremlin which apparently travels with him across the Atlantic.
Harrington has finished second three times in the last two seasons on the PGA Tour and 21 times throughout his European Tour career.
That would seem to weigh heavily on the mind of a thinking man like Harrington. And maybe it once did. But when your runner-ups reach the 20s, you start to lose count -- and gain patience. And you start to take satisfaction in the fact that you've once again given yourself a chance to win.
After all, Harrington averages about one win for every three second-place finishes. He already has three silver medals on the PGA Tour, which means its about time for a win -- maybe even at a major.
I'm totally indifferent to it at this stage. I don't get too bothered about the second places; I've got used to them,' he said.
It's just one of those things at this stage; I'm just waiting for it to turn the corner ' to all go my way at some stage.
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    Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

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    It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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    Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

    Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

    Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

    “I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

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    The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

    “The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

    Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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    Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

    LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

    Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

    ''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

    It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

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    ''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

    Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

    ''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

    After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

    ''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

    He's making his first start in the event.

    ''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

    Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

    ''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

    Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

    ''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

    The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

    ''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

    Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

    ''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

    Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

    Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

    Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

    John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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    Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

    Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

    He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

    How rare is his missing the cut there?

    The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

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    The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

    The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

    Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

    Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.