Harrington and Els, down in rankings, on outside looking in at Doral

padraig harrington
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Down to 89th in the world ranking, Padraig Harrington will miss his third straight World Golf Championships event this week.
Mark Garrod
PA Sport

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Wednesday, March 07, 2012 | 12:51 p.m.

These are exciting times for Rory McIlroy and for golf, but tough times for Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington.

Six majors between them does not mean a thing this week. Neither of them is good enough for a place in the second of this season's world championships.

Last year, Els was the defending champion at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and ranked 12th in the world. Now he is 65th and battling to qualify for the Masters -- once he can get back playing, that is.

Only two weeks ago, of course, the former No. 1 beat then-No. 1 Luke Donald at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, a result that set up the chance for McIlroy to take over the top spot.

But losing to Peter Hanson in the second round and then finishing 21st at last week's Honda Classic has done next-to-nothing for Els’ ranking, so he is on the outside looking in.

"I played better than I scored, which has been a familiar and at the same time frustrating story these past 12 months," said Els on his website diary, "but I have to continue to focus on the positives. My game is in pretty good shape overall."

The 42-year-old found himself paired with Tiger Woods on Sunday and was as impressed as anybody by the American's 62.

"To me it looked like the old Tiger. He never missed a shot or made a bad swing all day," said Els, who has to content himself this week with some hard practice and preparing for next Monday's Els for Autism Foundation pro-am, which many of the players at Doral will be supporting.

At least Harrington doesn’t have to worry about the Masters. His major double in 2008 makes him exempt for Augusta National, but at 89th in the world, this week is the third World Golf Championship in a row he has missed.

Each one, of course, is a big chance to climb the rankings but also in the European Ryder Cup standings. A member of the last six teams, the 40-year-old is already trailing way behind.

One thing is for sure, though. Harrington will never give up trying.

While sitting out the Accenture Match Play, he returned to Dublin and spent more time with mental coach Dave Alred, the man who has helped Donald and rugby star Jonny Wilkinson.

"It was quite intense, but very worthwhile," said Harrington. "He showed me a few more practice drills, things that make practicing more interesting and more worthwhile.

"I can see after only a few weeks of working with him what a difference it has made," he added. "I feel that my practice is much more productive now and more like a tournament."

Then at the Honda Classic he saw famed American sports psychologist Bob Rotella and coach Pete Cowen, whom he turned to for help after ending his long relationship with Bob Torrance last summer.

With Rotella, it was all about "clearing up a few things in my head and getting myself focused on my routines," Harrington explained. And with Cowen, not much time was needed because "he had a look at me and was happy with what he saw and so we left it at that."

He might not have been so happy on Sunday, however. From even par and tied for 34th place, the Irishman dropped to 71st spot with a 9-over 79 that included six bogeys and then double bogeys at the 15th and 16th -- both after trips to the water.