Padraig Harrington top draw at Booz Allen Classic
Ireland's Padraig Harrington is the highest-ranked player at this week's Booz Allen Classic in Potomac, Maryland, following the late withdrawal of defending champion Sergio Garcia.
World number nine Garcia pulled out on Monday with a back injury, leaving the PGA Tour event without a single member of the top 20.
Most of the game's leading players are taking a break after last week's U.S. Open and Harrington, ranked 23rd, will top the billing at the TPC Avenel course, starting on Thursday.
Spaniard Garcia, who won last year's title by two shots after closing with a six-under-par 65, has suffered back pain for the last two weeks.
He incurred the injury during the June 7 pro-am for the Barclays Classic at Westchester Country Club and withdrew from that event midway through the second round.
He then battled over the first two days of the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, missing the cut after shooting successive 78s.
"The pain did not get any better during my two rounds at the U.S. Open," Garcia said in a statement released by Booz Allen Classic organisers.
"Therefore I feel that I am going to need to go home, take some time off, and get it looked at by a doctor."
In his absence, Harrington will try to make the most of a low-scoring PGA Tour venue after bogeys on the last three holes of the U.S. Open cost him the chance of a maiden major victory.
"I'm very disappointed," the Irishman said after tying for fifth at Winged Foot, two shots behind winner Geoff Ogilvy of Australia.
"Three pars to win the Open. It probably doesn't get any easier than that. And I hit three good tee shots, got it in play.
"I was never happy with my game, and it just caught me out a little bit at the end. That's a pity, but it's a tough test out there."
This week will provide a very different examination for Harrington on a par-71 layout known for its birdie and eagle opportunities.
Australia's Adam Scott won the 2004 title with a record-equalling aggregate of 21-under-par 263, becoming the third player to post that total in the tournament's history.
American Charles Howell III set the course record with a 10-under 61 the same year before finishing runner-up behind Scott.
June 21, 2006