Harrington Battles Neck Injury, Neck Injury Wins
By Conor Nagle under The Masters

Harrington tracks his first shot of Thursday's opening round (AP)

Irish Golf Desk’s Brian Keogh is the man with the inside track on Padraig Harrington’s catastrophic opening 77 that left him in a tie for ninety-first place overnight. Warming up on the range before his round, the three-time major champion was swinging a club left-handed when he felt a sudden pain in his neck. 

No stranger to neck problems, Harrington suffers from recurrent complications with a disc bulge on his C5 vertebra, but the timing of the injury left him both incapable of seeking treatment and adequately warm up. As a result, he was left unable to turn his head to the right for the duration of his round:

“I haven’t even come close to swinging the club. I was wondering if I should pull out, but I wouldn’t. That’s just my nature.  I would always have a go.  But it wasn’t much fun… I was swinging the left‑handed shot, just warming up and it just kind of clicked and I’m not able to move to my right. Such is life.”

Though the Dubliner did he best to chalk it up to luck and the vicissitudes of a life spent travelling from one range to another, the frustration and disappointment that follows in the wake of something like this is still very real:

“It’s very disappointing.  I prepared very well, I was in good form, but it was not to be… I do a lot of work on [my neck] and it doesn’t give me too much trouble during the year.  But it’s always going to happen. I would love to tell you that there’s more I could do, let’s say, aside from cutting my head off.”

One thing Harrington did seem quite upbeat about, however, was the new R&A/USGA change to rules regarding the signing of incorrect scorecards, a rule largely prompted by his disqualification from the Abu Dhabi Championship earlier this year:

“You know what?  I would say we could wait a lifetime before we see another instance exactly like that one… If I wasn’t shooting 65 I probably wouldn’t be on cameras and it would have been no issue… But it’s great to see that the R & A has reacted so quickly and essentially the USGA and R & A look after the game of golf and it’s great that they can be concerned for professional golf and bring in a rule, which is really for professional golfers, not too many amateur events that they worry about that.  But who knows.”

The Irishman is still uncertain as to whether he’ll be able to tee it up in the second round.