Harrington's hopes end with 9 on No. 2

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Quadruple bogey sinks chances of third consecutive major title

Stricker continues his comeback with 68

April 12, 2009|By Teddy Greenstein | Teddy Greenstein,Tribune Newspapers

AUGUSTA, Ga. -The "Paddy Slam" got buried on Augusta National's par-5 second hole Saturday.

Padraig Harrington did the digging himself after taking a quadruple-bogey 9.

After Harrington pulled his drive into the woods, he punished his ball with another shot that hit nothing but tree.

"You live and learn," he said.

By the time Harrington blasted out, his hopes for a third consecutive major title were all but gone. In one hole, Harrington went from 2-under-par to 2-over.

He remained composed, though, shooting 3-under over the final 16 holes for a 1-over 73. He's at 1-under 215, 10 strokes behind co-leaders Angel Cabrera and Kenny Perry.

"Obviously, I didn't expect to take a 9 at the second, but it happens in golf," Harrington said. "You have to put up with it."

Tiger Woods and Ben Hogan are the only players to win three different majors in succession, and it's likely to stay that way.

Harrington defended his title in the British Open last summer at Royal Birkdale, then raised the stakes with a 66-66 weekend at Oakland Hills to win the PGA Championship and become the first European to win back-to-back majors in the same season.

Suddenly, there was talk of a "Paddy Slam," especially when he opened with a 69.

But his chances were badly damaged on the second hole Saturday.

After pulling his tee shot well left of the fairway, Harrington tried to hit a hybrid in front of the green. He hit a tree, and the ball caromed into the hazard. After taking a penalty drop, he hit the same tree again, the ball ricocheting into a ditch this time.

Harrington played from the ditch toward the fairway, hit 5-iron to the front of the green, then chipped to 12 feet and took two putts.

Stricker relaxed

Steve Stricker's bonus rounds at the Masters could have a big payoff.

Playing the weekend at Augusta National for the first time since 2001, Stricker found himself on the leader board after a bogey-free 68. At 7-under, he is alone in fifth place, four strokes behind Cabrera and Perry.

"Usually I'm not here on Saturday. It's a great place now, isn't it?" Stricker said, laughing. "That's maybe why I felt a little more comfortable today, because this was a bonus because I haven't made too many cuts here. I was really relaxed."

Stricker tied for 10th at the 2001 Masters. But he missed the cut the next year as he descended into a four-year slump that almost ended his career. He plummeted to 189th on the money list in 2003 after making only eight cuts, and lost his card the next year.

He revived his career in 2006 with a run so impressive it earned him PGA Tour Comeback Player of the Year - two years in a row.

His 68 tied for the low round of the day, and he and Justin Rose were the only players without a bogey. Now he's in position to make a run at the leaders Sunday.

"I'm going to have a chance," Stricker said.

Smooth operator

: Rory McIlroy never thought he was in danger of being disqualified after an incident at the end of his second round.

McIlroy failed to get out of a bunker on 18, then swiped the sand with his foot. That move can be interpreted as testing the surface of a hazard - a no-no that carries a two-shot penalty.

After the round, Masters official Fred Ridley asked McIlroy whether wanted to review footage of the incident before the Competition Committee made a ruling. McIlroy, confident he did nothing wrong, said no.

"They rang me back and said, 'It would be in your best interests to come up and see the tape,' " McIlroy recalled. "I told them, 'Look, it's my natural instinct after I hit a bunker shot to smooth out my footprints. I didn't kick [the sand]. It was more of a sweep.' "

The committee agreed, and McIlroy was not assessed a penalty. He shot a 1-under 71 Saturday and is tied for 32nd.

The fine print

Since World War II, the only player to win the Masters without playing the year before is Fuzzy Zoeller, who triumphed in 1979 as a rookie. Neither Perry nor Chad Campbell played here last year. Cabrera tied for 25th.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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