Harrington sets new water rate

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The Independent Online
Padraig Harrington is the sort of golfer who, on a bad day, would score 73 and, when the rub of the green was with him, would win a tournament. A qualified accountant, the 24- year-old Dubliner is adept at playing the percentages, but yesterday he ran out of fingers in trying to work out what he scored on one hole.

Harrington turned professional after helping Great Britain and Ireland to a famous victory over the United States in the Walker Cup at Royal Porthcawl last year. The son of a policeman, he made sure he had another career in his bag before jumping in at the deep end. He has made a tremendous start on the European Tour, making cut after cut, culminating in victory in the Spanish Open in Madrid last Sunday when he played 36 holes in one day.

When he arrived at The Oxfordshire here for the Benson and Hedges International he found, to his surprise, that he was playing the first two rounds with Nick Faldo. Yesterday Harrington suffered a backlash, scoring 84, including a grotesque 13 on the 17th. "I was concerned he was going to run out of balls," Faldo said, a remark that was not so much ambiguous as amphibious.

The penultimate hole is a par five of 585 yards and is something of a trick or treat. The dilemma is whether to go for the green in two across a large expanse of water or hug the fairway and play safe. Harrington went for the treat and lost four balls in the lake. "Normally I don't get tempted into stupid things like that," he said. In the first round he drove into a bunker and had no choice but to lay up. Yesterday he hit a good drive, "probably the worst thing you can do at that hole". He had 250 yards, downwind, to the green, hit a three wood and watched his ball fall 10 yards short of safety.

"I know I can hit that distance but I forgot the first 240 was across water," Harrington said. After taking a penalty drop he had 220 yards to the flag and hit a three iron into the water. Twice. Then he tried a six iron, found the bank but the ball rolled back into the lake. "My next six iron was okay and I pitched on and had two putts," Harrington said. "I lost count of how many I had taken. I asked my caddie how many balls we had left in the bag and subtracted. It was the only way I could work it out. If I knew then what I know now... I didn't feel embarrassed I felt indifferent. I tried on every shot. If you're going to miss the cut, miss it by a long way. I'll be home in time for tea." A welcome relief from yet another tee time.

At the same hole Faldo hit a three wood over the green and settled for par in a 73 that left him at one under par, five behind the 36-hole front- runner Miguel Angel Jimenez. "If at first you don't succeed play sideways," Faldo said. "Maybe in golf you don't try and try again. The 17th is not a normal European hole. I'm sure I had to learn the hard way too."

Jimenez birdied the 17th in a 70 that left him at six under, two in front of Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie and Jon Robson. Monty shot 68 and it deserved an asterisk for not containing a single bogey. "It's not the amount of birdies you make, it's the amount of mistakes you don't make," Monty said. "On such a demanding course you tend not to get a flukey winner. You generally find the Ryder Cup players come to the top."

Faldo echoed the sentiment. "I'm sure there'll be a quality leaderboard for the final round," he said. "Langer loves this weather." This came as news to Langer, who wore three layers of clothes on Thursday and yesterday increased it to four. The German caught a crab at the par-three fifth where he hit a three iron into water for a double-bogey five but he peppered his round of 71 with five birdies.

Langer has been critical of the amount of sand in the bunkers and the fact that he cannot reach some of the par fours in two. But then the course designer did not foresee an icy blast from the plains of Siberia roaring across the Oxfordshire countryside in May. "I didn't expect this weather," Langer said. "I brought summer clothes. You would think after coming here for 20 years I would know better."

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