Padraig Harrington Leads PGA, Relishes Olympic Opportunity
SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (AP) — His time seemed to have passed. He's ranked 150th in the world and almost surely won't be playing on Europe's Ryder Cup squad.
His chances for making the FedEx Cup playoffs are in danger, too, particularly because he plans to stay at the Rio Olympics after playing in them.
And despite winning the PGA Championship in 2008, the year's final major hasn't been one of Padraig Harrington's better tournaments, either. He's missed the cut eight times, including the last three years.
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All of which the three-time major champion from Ireland would greet with a shrug and a smile.
Make that a big smile after he posted a 5-under-par 65 in Saturday's third round of the PGA, the best score among morning starters.
"There was definitely a score on the golf course," he said after a bogey-free round. "I probably made the most of the round today. I played average, but made the most of it, took my chances. Hit the right shots at the right time, and any of the shots that I didn't hit well didn't do me any harm. So it was one of those days. It's nice when you score better than you play."
Ranked as high as fourth in 2008 when he also won his second British Open, Harrington has been an infrequent visitor to leaderboards for nearly four years. Yet he also has a win in that span at the 2015 Honda Classic, his first on the PGA Tour in seven years.
But inconsistency has accompanied Harrington, 44, for a while. After his Honda victory, his best showing last year was a tie for 20th at the British. He missed nine cuts in 22 tournaments, with one withdrawal.
And 2016 hasn't been much better — at least until this week on a course where he also failed to advance to the weekend in his only appearance 11 years ago.
His 65 came well before heavy rains hit the course and suspended play. He hoped conditions would toughen Baltusrol the rest of the way.
"In my head, I'm hoping the scoring goes a little bit like it did the last time the PGA Championship was here," Harrington said, "and the leaders come under a bit of pressure on the golf course, and maybe some guys behind, namely me, get a bit of momentum early on and can push on."
Harrington will be at the Ryder Cup as one of Darren Clarke's vice captains. Short of winning here, though, he won't be playing at Hazeltine in Minnesota.
He will be on Ireland's Olympic team, though. It took a bunch of defections by the likes of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell for Harrington to get his spot, one he relishes. So even though he ranks 140th in the FedEx Cup standings and will miss several chances to improve that, barring an unlikely win in the PGA, his decision to attend other events in Rio figures to cost him a playoff berth.
"This is very unusual for me, even if I'm not in the FedExCup, I normally come back and would play Wyndham (in Greensboro, North Carolina)," Harrington said. "But I think so much of the Olympics, I'm going to take a week's holiday and go to a number of events. It's an opportunity of a lifetime to really have a great week's holiday the second week. The first week will be all business, but hopefully the second week we'll have a good week and hopefully I'll do enough this week and next week to get myself up in the FedEx points."
What events does Harrington plan to attend in Brazil? Nearly everything.
"Table tennis, gymnastics, diving, velodrome, boxing," he said enthusiastically. "I'm sure I'm missing out on one or two. This is all the second week. So I'm trying to do two things a day the second week."