Week on Tour: Freak injury almost ends Harrington's career

Golf News

A round-up of the week's news as golf gets Olympic boost until 2024 and Padraig Harrington might not give another lesson any time soon...

Harrington’s lucky escape

Next month Padraig Harrington returns to Royal Birkdale, scene of his second Open triumph, but there was a thought last week that his career might have prematurely ended in bizarre circumstances.

The Irishman was at a clinic when he was hit on the elbow by an amateur taking a practice swing. The result was a WD from the St Jude Classic, ‘just six stitches’ and no competitive golf for the next two weeks.

“Thankfully nothing was broken. I thought it was the end of me playing competitive golf.”

The 45-year-old, who was trying to fix the player’s hook, told the Associated Press: “Barring me fainting from the shock of pain, once I numbed it up, I couldn’t feel anything.

“He caught me on the left elbow – middle of the clubface, middle of the elbow. When I came back from the hospital, I gave him a big hug. It was a pure accident. These things happen. I know he felt bad.”

As for the lesson he added: “He told me I straightened out his hook.”

Double Berger in Memphis

Daniel Berger made it two wins on the PGA Tour after defending his St Jude Classic title with a bogey-free 66. The 24-year-old, who had a back-up Callaway driver in play after cracking his original one earlier in the week, chipped in brilliantly at the 1st for an unlikely par and he finished the week as the only player in double figures.

In the back nine he hit a short iron to kick-in distance at the 13th and then boxed a 20-footer two holes later to stay ahead of a packed leaderboard. But maybe his best shot was this below as he escaped from the rough to give himself a chance of another birdie. He missed, as he did at the 72nd hole with a timid effort from 15 feet, but his work was done.

Korean Whee Kim and Charl Schwartzel took second place while Rafa Cabrera Bello could have taken it to extra holes with a brace of birdies to finish but he could only make a pair of pars.

Phil Mickelson, likely to miss this week’s US Open, was ninth while Adam Scott, who will be at Erin Hills, was T10 and maybe one to watch.

Frittelli comes through in Austria

Remember Dylan Frittelli? He lost a four-shot lead in China six weeks ago to let in Alexander Levy in China where the Frenchman won a play-off.

Well, the South African is now a winner after taking a one-shot victory over David Horsey, J’be Kruger and Mikko Korhonen after closing with a 67.

He birdied three of the first four and went clear with another at the ninth. His only blemish came at 14, one of just six bogeys all week, and the former college team-mate of Jordan Spieth at which point Kruger was ahead after holing out from the fairway at 12 and then making birdies at 15 and 16.

Frittelli’s birdie at 16 and Kruger’s bogey at 18 meant the champion needed a par at the last, which he managed with a tee shot to comfortable two-putt range.

England’s Richard McEvoy bogeyed the last two to finish two back. Chile’s Felipe Aguilar was two clear overnight but stumbled to a 75.

“My 0-2 record in play-offs is not very good so I didn’t want to have extra guys in the play-off – trying to beat them there on the 18th would have been tough,” Frittelli said.

“Five years ago I played this tournament on an invite and managed to miss my second round tee-time so I’d like to think this is a role-reversal here and culmination of the hard work I’ve done in between those two periods.”

 

Olympic future secured

Golf’s return to the Olympics looked like being a short-lived affair when the bulk of the world’s best players made their half-baked excuses and left before the Rio Games.

But thanks to those men and women who did make the trip the sport has now been extended through to 2024 – all 28 sports from Brazil made the cut for seven years’ time where Paris and Los Angeles are the leading favourites.

Golf was already guaranteed a starting spot in Tokyo in 2020 but the International Golf Federation will breathe a huge sigh of relief thanks to the likes to Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Rickie Fowler.

An IGF statement read: “We were always confident that golf would deliver exciting men’s and women’s competitions in Rio de Janeiro and even at that, it exceeded our expectations. Now, we are excited to build upon the success from last year as we prepare for the 2020 Games in Tokyo and, hopefully, beyond.”

Golden ticket for local boy Stricker

Steve Stricker is particularly keen to play in this year’s US Open as Erin Hills and Wisconsin play host to the second major of 2017.

The Presidents Cup captain was born in Edgerton, about 60 miles from this year’s venue, and so lobbied for an exemption into the USGA showpiece. And didn’t get in.

He then tried to qualify on his world ranking. And didn’t get in.

Before, finally, playing in the sectional qualifying in Memphis. And got in, in top spot no less at 10 under. Not bad for a 50-year-old.

US Open first and second round tee times

“It’s been at the forefront of my thinking for a while now. It’s kind of a relief, I know I got in on my own terms. I went through qualifying. I’d rather have it that way. I’m glad I did it this way,” said Stricker.

Other big names to also make their way through the 10 qualifiers were Andres Romero, Harris English, Martin Laird, Keegan Bradley, Stewart Cink and Bryson DeChambeau.

And those to miss out were two-time winner Retief Goosen, Luke Donald, Peter Uihlein, Vijay Singh, Davis Love and Patrick Cantlay.

Mickelson to miss both US and Scottish Opens?

When Phil Mickelson revealed that he would likely be missing the US Open because of his daughter’s graduation on the Thursday one of the first thoughts was that the high school might move things around… which isn’t going to happen.

But a statement from the private high school, Pacific Ridge in Carlsbad, said this:

“We take confidentiality seriously and do not comment on our students or families out of respect for their privacy. We look forward to celebrating the Class of 2017 on June 15.”

Mickelson’s daughter Amanda is doing the commencement speech – though we have no idea what that actually is – but it means ‘Lefty’ won’t be in Wisconsin to try and finish second again.

But he still hasn’t withdrawn yet so you never know…

Phil Mickelson

What we do know is that Mickelson will definitely not be playing in this year’s Scottish Open at Dundonald Links.

The tournament will have a fourth different home in the past four years and this is the reason for the left-hander’s withdrawal.

“It is too much for me to learn a new course every time I go to the Scottish on top of needing to familiarise myself with the British Open venues,” he said. “I heard good things about Dundonald but when the Scottish organisers can stay with a rota of two to three courses then I will go back. But while they are changing courses of late every year, I will not play”.

Dundonald follows in the footsteps of Castle Stuart, where Mickelson won in 2013, the week before he also won the Open at Muirfield), Gullane and Royal Aberdeen.

Major setback for Moore

World No. 42 Ryan Moore is out of the US Open with a shoulder injury so Michael Putnam, the first alternate from qualifying in Ohio, is in.

Moore’s brother and manager Jeremy said the injury is minor and that he will be out for three to four weeks but that Erin Hills was beyond him.

For Putnam it will be his fourth US Open in his 12 years as a pro. At Chambers Bay he hit the opening shot of the championship.

You call it what?!

Bobby Jones named his putter ‘Calamity Jane’, Ben Crenshaw ‘Gentle Ben’ but they’ve got nothing on Daniel Summerhays whose wand goes by the name of ‘Sweet Love’.

As he explained at The Memorial after taking the lead on Saturday: “If you ask any of the people I played junior golf with in Salt Lake that’s the one thing they’ll always tell you. That kid makes everything.

“I was just a naïve kind of sophomore at BYU and I went off one day with the putter. I was making everything. And not just short, I was making 20, 25-footers. And I leaned over to Coach Brockbank and I said ‘Coach, the putter is making sweet love to me. And so they named my putter Sweet Love. And even I’ll get texts from some of my college team-mates ‘let Sweet Love loose today, or something like that’.”

Sweet Love is currently down in 86th spot for Total Putting on the PGA Tour.

Calamity Billy

Byron Nelson winner Billy Horschel had to use a fairway wood on the greens at the St Jude after casually tossing, and then breaking, his putter after just missing out at the eighth hole. As the break ‘did not occur during the normal course of play’ he wasn’t allowed to replace it.

The good news was that he started on the 10th so only had to do without it for one hole – where he ‘two-putted’ from 50 feet.

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