DESPITE a traumatic day on the putting greens, Pádraig Harrington is not giving up on winning the European Tour order of merit.
He shot a very disappointing, birdieless round of 76, five over par, in yesterday’s first day of the decisive Volvo Masters at Valderrama. He finished three strokes behind the Swede, Robert Karlsson, who held a 290,425- point lead over Harrington before play began. Harrington finds himself back in a share of 43rd and is now also very much in the sights of third placed Lee Westwood, who produced a fine round of 70.
Harrington arrived in Spain feeling revitalised after a succession of disappointing weeks and his game lacked the vibrancy and inspiration so central to his successes earlier in the year.
The tournament leader is Dane Soren Kjeldsen, the recipient of glowing praise from the entire field after bringing in a six under par 65. Sergio Garcia came in three shots behind on 68 and that kind of talent near the top of the leaderboard only serves to make Harrington’s task even tougher.
The majority of yesterday’s gallery watched Harrington and Karlsson in the last match of the day and quite frankly it wasn’t much fun on a sunny but decidedly chilly afternoon. The Irishman didn’t manage a single birdie, a fact he clearly didn’t like being reminded of, and it wasn’t until the last few holes that Karlsson gave the gallery anything to cheer about as he birdied both the 15th and 18th.
“There are still 54 holes to play and surely the tide will turn for me,” said Harrington. “Soren Kjeldsen shot 65 today and if I do something like that tomorrow, I’m back in the tournament. I need to make a lot more putts and make better decisions. It’s not all that hard to come back but I’m certainly going to need one of those days.
“I found it so hard to judge the wind, my putting was poor and I never looked like scaring the hole.”
Karlsson didn’t look a whole lot more comfortable but he is now very much in the driving seat where the order of merit is concerned. Keep an eye, though, on Westwood who is not at all happy at failing to win a single tournament this year, instead finishing second on six occasions. He managed three birdies in a homeward journey of 34, two under par, and looked solid all the way.
Westwood looked nice and smug after his one under par 70 but insisted he would not be getting ahead of himself. “There is no point in looking at the scoreboard until we reach the back nine on Sunday,” he advised.
Man of the day was the 35-year-old Kjeldsen, a native of Aalborg but now living in Ascot, England.
“You never know on this course,” he said. “After finishing in a tie last year (along with winner Justin Rose and Simon Dyson) I’m obviously very comfortable here at Valderrama.”
Justin Rose only got into the tournament because he was the defending champion and was a little aggrieved at being put out in the first match on the course with a marker. The same fate befalls him this morning after yesterday’s round of 80 that included an eight at the dreaded par five 17th.
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