Padraig Harrington has been reunited with his lost clubs and is ready to go one better than a year ago and claim victory in this week’s D+D Real Czech Masters in Prague.
Europe’s Ryder Cup captain alerted the world via Twitter earlier this week that for the first occasion in 32 years travelling the globe playing golf, he lost his clubs in transit.
His prize Wilson clubs were checked-in at Newark Airport in New Jersey but never arrived in the Czech capital.
The three-time Major winner, competing in the Czech Masters a year after finishing runner-up in the event, had a back-up plan that involved wife, Caroline arranging for a second set to be sent to Prague with Caroline’s sister Susie, who is married to Harrington’s caddie Ronan Flood, to take the clubs to Prague herself today should the originals fail to arrive.
Fortunately, Harrington got a knock on his Prague hotel room door with the attendant standing there with his clubs.
Harrington tweeted: “Well the clubs arrived. 1 day late from NY. All in working order.”
The Czech event is just Harrington’s sixth European Tour event after breaking his wrist over the Christmas period but he insists that will not be an excuse, already proving it last month with a stunning 63 in the opening round of the recent Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
“I’ve been injured this year with the broken wrist and I’m back playing for a few months now but they tell me it’s going to be close to the end of the year before it’s fully healed in the sense that I won’t be thinking about it,” he said.
“It doesn’t seem to affect my golf swing. It affects me a little bit on some of the bunker shots and chip shots. I’m good to play, it’s not getting in my head on the golf course.”
Harrington, who turns 48 on the last day of August, is continuing his effort to secure pro career victory 32 and a first since capturing the 2016 Portugal Masters, and he has extra incentive this week after he and Italian Andrea Pavan went out in the final Czech Masters group a year ago.
Harrington was three clear of Pavan at the turn but the young Italian stormed past his more experienced rival to win with a back nine 31 for a two-shot success.
“It was very tight last year, there was a great ebb and flow to that final round,” Harrington said. “It was exciting, the golf was good, it was low scoring so there was birdies as well. There was plenty of drama.
“I thought I always had it, all the way up to the 69th hole where I missed a short putt and then he holed a big putt on the the 70th hole and had a two-shot lead with two holes to play. There wasn’t enough holes for me to come back.”
Meantime – Rory McIlroy has been grouped with arch rivals Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed for the opening round of the BMW Championship at Medinah near Chicago.
It is the penultimate event of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoff Series with Koepka ranked No. 1 on the standings, Reed No. 2 and McIlroy No. 3.
And despite yet another disappointing Sunday last week in New Jersey, McIlroy remains upbeat teeing-up on the site of the 2012 ‘Miracle at Medinah’.
“This has been my most consistent year of my career by far with 13 top-10s out of 17 PGA Tour events,” he said.
“I’ve had the two wins, if I had a — it’s my best strokes gained numbers, my best stats. I’m not outside the top 20 in any stat that I really look at, strokes gained off the tee, strokes gained around the green, strokes gained putting, and that’s part of why I’ve been so consistent.
“But I guess — I think the narrative and the way golf has become, consistency maybe is not as valued as it maybe once was. I think that’s sports in general.
“So, I feel much better about my game. I feel much better about my game this year than I have in previous years where I’ve been a little bit more hit and miss.
“Like in 2012 I won five times, but I also missed like four or five cuts and had a real bad spell in there.
“But this year it’s just been week after week, playing pretty solid golf, and just sort of being patient, waiting for my time to try to pick off the wins.”
Joining McIlroy is fellow Major champs Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell.
Lowry is ranked No. 25th on the standings and McDowell well down at 64th and with both needing to be inside the top-30 come Sunday night to be assured of contesting next week’s mega-lucrative Tour Championship in Atlanta.
Lowry is projected to need a top-29 finish to advance to the final event of the Series while GMac faces the daunting task of needing a solo 3rd place result to move on to the final tournament.
IRISH TEE TIMES – Irish time.
Padraig Harrington – 7.05am
Paul Dunne – 7.35am
Gavin Moynihan – 11.15am
Shane Lowry – 3.59pm
Rory McIlroy – 4.48pm
Graeme McDowell – 5.10pm