Harrington hopes to stop slide down rankings with solid play at St. Jude

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Padraig Harrington isn't panicking about dropping out of the top 50, he says, because "there's a big summer ahead and I'm very happy with my game."
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PA Sport

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Published: Wednesday, June 08, 2011 | 1:15 p.m.

Tiger Woods isn’t the only top golfer who has been battling a knee issue lately. But while Woods is out of next week's U.S. Open, Padraig Harrington feels ready to return to action at the FedEx St. Jude Classic this week -- and no doubt he will be hoping history repeats itself.

The last two majors Woods missed were the 2008 British Open and PGA Championship, both of which Harrington won.

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First, though, the Dubliner needs to prove he is back to full fitness. Not only that, Harrington also badly wants to stop a slide down the world rankings that sees him outside the top 50 this week for the first time since 1999. He was third behind Woods and Sergio Garcia just over two years ago.

"I don't want to drop out of the top 50, but what can I do?" he said recently. "It's not through lack of trying and I feel my game's in great shape. I think I'm in a position to go forward.

"I'm not panicking about dropping out of the top 50 and it's not in itself a big issue -- there's a big summer ahead and I'm very happy with my game, what I'm doing and where I'm at,” he explained. "I'm doing the right things that will lead to results.

"You go through periods where no matter how hard you try to win you just don't,” he added. "And you go through periods where you can't do anything wrong. It's a tough game and you just have to be patient."

As he says himself, it has been a strange season so far.

Harrington started it with a 65 in Abu Dhabi and then was disqualified when he didn’t see that his ball had moved a fraction as he picked up his marker. He then finished outside the top 30 in his next four events, but since then has gone 10th, missed cut, eighth, two missed cuts (including the Masters), ninth and another missed cut at the Players Championship.

His return after a month out comes in an event that last year finished with two fellow Europeans, Lee Westwood and Robert Karlsson, fighting it out in a playoff. Westwood won his first title in America in 12 years on the fourth extra hole, but for both of them it was something of a shock to find themselves in sudden death at all.

Robert Garrigus led by three with one to play -- like Jean Van de Velde at Carnoustie in 1999 -- but drove into a lake, took a triple bogey and went out at the next hole. He, Westwood and Karlsson have been reunited for the opening two rounds this year.

There are not enough world ranking points on offer for Westwood to reclaim the world No. 1 spot off the resting Luke Donald even if he wins again.

Karlsson, meanwhile, has yet to play in Europe this year. After taking a PGA Tour card and moving his family to the States, he applied for a green card and then discovered that while the process was going through he could not travel overseas. That meant he had to pull out of the Volvo World Match Play in Spain and the European Tour's flagship BMW PGA Championship in England.