Notes: Lowry challenges Harrington's lengthy run as top-ranked Irishman

Padraig Harrington
Getty Images
After 13 seasons, Padraig Harrington's perch atop Irish golf is under threat.
By
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Padraig Harrington lost a 54-hole lead and was runner-up in the Italian Open on May 2, 1999, moving him up to No. 83 in the world ranking. He replaced Paul McGinley as the highest-ranked player from the Republic of Ireland, and that didn't change for more than 13 years.

Shane Lowry won the Portugal Masters, and his fifth-place finish in the BMW Masters moved him to No. 57, making him Ireland's highest-ranked player.

Harrington skipped the BMW Masters to play as an alternate in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, which he won to earn $600,000 (but no ranking points). Harrington is at No. 59.

Harrington has finished the season as Ireland's top golfer in the world ranking every year since 1997.

'SENATOR' FRITSCH: Brad Fritsch of Canada finally made it to the PGA Tour, and he's bringing his favorite NHL team with him.

The Ottawa Senators have announced a partnership with the 34-year-old Fritsch, who earned his card by finishing 18th on the Web.com Tour money list. The Senators will provide financial support, and Fritsch will wear their logo on his shirt and golf bag.

''I am overjoyed to partner with and represent the NHL team that I've grown up with the last 20 years,'' Fritsch said. ''It is an honor and a pleasure to be associated with the Senators and my hope is that this is a partnership that will last for many, many years.''

Fritsch starts his season in January, and he can only hope the NHL is playing by then.

DONALD AND DISNEY: Luke Donald won't be defending his title next week at Disney, a decision he doesn't take lightly. One of his daughters has a scheduled medical procedure at home north of Chicago, and Donald doesn't want to miss it.

Donald can be excused for not playing even if there was nothing going on at home. The only reason he played last year was for a chance to win the PGA Tour title, and thus become the first player to win the money list on the PGA Tour and European Tour in the same year.

It was the first time in six years that Disney had the No. 1 player in the world. Donald, who had not played Disney since 2003, was five shots behind until running off six straight birdies on the back nine for a 64.

Considering what was at stake, and the fact Donald might not get another chance at such a milestone, his win was one of the top performances of the year.

Instead of explaining why he couldn't return, Donald went an extra step. He has pledged a ''significant donation'' to Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, part of the Children's Miracle Network of hospitals.

Children's Miracle Network is the title sponsor at Disney.

ASIA-PACIFIC AMATEUR: It took more than 100 years of the U.S. Amateur before a player -- Tiger Woods -- won it three straight times. Hideki Matsuyama will be going after his third straight Asia-Pacific Amateur title this week in Thailand.

The championship is only in its fourth year.

At stake for the winner is a spot in the Masters, and being exempt into International Final Qualifying for the British Open. Matsuyama has made the cut twice in the Masters, and he won on the Japan Golf Tour.

''I was able to win twice so that I was able to go to the Masters twice,'' he said. ''So I am really looking forward to winning again this time in Thailand.''

The tournament will be played at Amata Spring, where Matsuyama played for British Open qualifying.

DIVOTS: Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia are the only players from Europe's winning Ryder Cup team who are not playing in the HSBC Champions. The U.S. team is missing Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson and Jim Furyk. ... Three PGA Tour events will have new tournament directors next year. Coachella Valley business executive is taking over the Humana Challenge for Larry Thiel, who is retiring. Joe Mazzeo has been promoted to tournament director of the Mayakoba Golf Classic following the departure of Larson Segerdahl, who will be the new tournament director of the Texas Open. ... The Australian Masters found a title sponsor in Talisker, a single-malt Scotch whisky. It will be played at Kingston Heath and five hours of live television coverage each round. Ian Poulter is the defending champion.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods matched a career-best with 28 birdies in Malaysia. He also had 28 birdies in the 2006 Buick Open, which he won by three shots, and the 2007 Tour Championship, which he won by eight shots. In Malaysia, he tied for fourth.

FINAL WORD: ''Piling up the cash. Just need to get a win.'' -- Robert Garrigus, after his fourth runner-up finish this year at the CIMB Classic.