Harrington puts youth in its place

Ireland's Mr Perseverance repels the fresh faces to set himself another Sunday test
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The Independent Online

Just at the moment, it seems as if Padraig Harrington is trying to fight off the younger generation of players on the European Tour single-handedly. You have to admire the Irishman's perseverance. Having lost to Paul Casey at the Benson and Hedges International last Sunday, Harrington will have Graeme McDowell on his heels today in the final round of the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open.

McDowell, like Casey and Luke Donald, impressed on the college circuit in America before turning professional. The 23-year-old from Portrush has never played with Harrington, not even in a practice round. "I am going to relish what is going to happen tomorrow," he said. "I will be watching the leaderboard and it will be great to see how Padraig plays. He is a great role model for young players and the two of us in the final pairing will be good for Irish golf."

McDowell, who scored a 68 after going out in 32, was two behind Harrington's 15 under. He won the Scandinavian Masters last August in only his fourth start as a professional. "It's great to be back in contention," he said. "It is a completely different feeling from going nowhere at the back of the bus. I enjoy this much more."

As Harrington stumbled over the final 10 holes at The Belfry last week, Casey showed that he takes naturally to the art of winning. McDowell is of the same breed. "The way Paul has played and won this year gives all the young players hope," said the Northern Irishman.

"The European Tour is a good place to play at the moment. It is good to see so many young winners. There is a lot of good young blood out there, though there is some good old blood as well."

Harrington, at 31, now falls in the latter category but has been made to bleed over 19 runners-up finishes in his career. For much of the third round at Gut Kaden, Harrington, who led by three strokes at halfway, could not put any distance between himself and the rest of the field.

At The Belfry he had bogeyed the last hole to fall back into a tie for the lead, alongside Casey. Powering away and making a tournament his own does not seem to be his style. He made an early bogey yesterday but birdied the sixth and the seventh. However, it was the four at the par-five 17th that sealed a two-stroke lead.

"I didn't make the putts today, but I'm pleased to be in the lead," Harrington said after a 70. "There were times when I fell asleep." This would not be difficult at Gut Kaden, which is a less than inspiring layout even when the greens are not damaged by fusarium, which has made putting a bumpy business this week.

Harrington expected, as he teed off, to have lost his lead but this was not the case. For what is known as "Moving Day," this was an occasion when it was barely all the removers could do to shift everything down the street. Shifting halfway across the country was out of the question.

There was, though, a large gallery of 19,000 who had to get here early to see Tiger Woods play. The world No 1 has won this tournament three times out of three when it has been played in Heidelberg, but has never been on the pace here. A 70 did not provide enough of a threat to frighten those at the top of the leaderboard and he ended as he had started, nine off the lead.

For a man with only two events on his schedule between the Masters and the US Open this was a curious tournament to play, in a strictly golfing sense. (His bank account has been handsomely credited for his transatlantic trip.) His other start will be at the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village, an event he has won three times. "I know it is going to be in perfect shape and it will be good preparation," he said.

Even the $300,000 Lamborghini available for Tiger's enjoyment has been sitting quietly in the car park. "It's too flashy for me," he said. It is bright orange.

Casey, at 11 under, is not beyond a second successive victory, while Darren Clarke was on the same score, one behind Retief Goosen and the Dane, Mads Vibe-Hastrup, in third place. Clarke was only a stroke off the lead when he took a double-bogey five at the short 16th. At least that was what he thought he had taken, but it was only confirmed after a meeting with the chief referee, John Paramor, in the recorder's tent.

The trouble started when Clarke thinned his bunker shot at the 16th green. "I was trying to be too cute," he said. He thought he had found the ball, unplayable in the rough – it was the same make and type – and proceeded to drop back in the bunker and play out to eight feet. He then noticed the ball did not have his trademark shamrocks on it, and on enquiring of the referee in the area was advised, incorrectly, to continue his search for the original ball.

This could not be found, so he went back to the bunker to drop again and hit that one to a foot. He should have stuck with the second ball and it took cool, and definitely awake, heads to confirm that there was no extra penalty.