Finding fairways, clutching putts, the Dubliner had done almost everything right to put himself within a birdie or two of defending his USPGA title only to literally sink his own chances for the second successive Sunday.
Harrington’s mid-season swing changes looked to be paying off handsomely as he comfortably kept up with Tiger’s length off the tee during their friendly face-off over the opening 36 holes at Hazeltine National. One 316-yard approach from a fairway bunker to the green on Friday had Woods laughing at the sheer improbability, or as Padraig might say, “fun”, of it all.
However, having crept to within a shot of the leader by the end of the third round, but failing to make the final pairing, as Tiger struggled to pull away on Sunday Harrington blew his hopes by carding a “quint”, the term given to the eight strokes he took to come to terms with the par-3 eighth.
Korean afterthought Y.E. Yang, produced what Sky co-commentator Robert Lee called ‘the best shot I’ve ever seen’ to clinch victory on the 18th, much to Tiger’s (and €1.5m-the-poorer Paddy Power’s) disbelief, seeing as it was the first time the world No1 had led going into the last round of a major and failed to close the deal.
As a Sunday morning shankmeister myself, Harrington’s brainstorm wasn’t quite the worst sequence of shots I’ve ever witnessed, but as the pro’s go it was right up there with Jean van de Velde’s career-defining collapse at Carnoustie a decade ago.
If it occurred once you might dismiss it as a case of that’s life, but for it to happen to Harrington two weekends running (his previous comedy of errors having come at the Bridgestone Invitational seven days earlier) unfortunately seems a tad too coincidental for comfort. There was no official telling him to hurry up this time.
Going into the tournament Harrington made much of his mental fortitude and ability to blank out the bad stuff. He’ll have water on the brain for a while yet, I reckon.