Harrington unlikely to progress at Masters, while ‘disappointed’ McDowell is not panicking
Dubliner struggles to round of 78 as McDowell records opening 73
Graeme McDowell hits his approach shot to the first green during the first round of the US Masters. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters
The mood was one of disappointment, as if some spoilsport had come to the party and spent all the time pin-pricking the balloons. No fun. If Graeme McDowell, at least, had recorded an opening 73 that could be salvaged, the woes of Pádraig Harrington – who incurred two double-bogeys in a round of 78 – and of British amateur champion Alan Dunbar, after an 83, were likely beyond repair.
Once again for Harrington, the trouble came mainly with the blade in his hand. Once the most trustworthy club in his bag, the putter has become a mercurial beast blowing hot and more often cold; yesterday, it misbehaved on greens where there was no room for forgiveness. “I misread and missed a few short putts at crucial times and really lost a lot of momentum, that’s the story of my day. It was not a good day for me,” said a downbeat Harrington, who had actually started well – one-under through five holes before suffering his first double-bogey of the round on the par-three sixth hole – but it was his later problems with the putter that sealed his fate.
Having birdied the par-five 13th to at least start moving in the right direction, the Dubliner was stopped in his tracks. “Ah, the 14th (hole) was the one. In my head, I’m birdieing the 13th, 14th and 15th to get back to level. I hit it in close and ended up (three-putting) making bogey,” said Harrington.
On the 15th, he again three stabbed, from just off the green, to only make par and, then, on the 17th he over-shot the green and went onto three putt for his second double bogey of the round.
“When I look back on it, it was all my short game (which was to blame),” lamented Harrington, who will need to perform some rescue act in the second round if he is to survive the cut which this year has been extended to the top-50 and ties.
The mood in the McDowell camp wasn’t as downbeat. While confessing to be “disappointed” with his opening round of 73, McDowell claimed there was no need to press any “panic button” in his quest to contend.
“No, no panic button,” said McDowell. “I didn’t play terribly at all, hit a lot of nice shots. A couple of putts that could have went in here and there. (Hole) six was my only mistake on the front nine, and 12 (four putting from off the green for a double bogey five) was disappointing . . . . but there was plenty of good there.” He added: “I just have to go out and shoot three or four under (in the second round) and get myself there for the weekend. You never know with this course, it’s going to get tougher and tougher, and you’ve just got to try and stay in it.”
The 12th was a particularly trying part of McDowell’s round, as his short game deserted him. “I’ve been practicing hitting the putter, trying to nudge it through the fringe and get it up on the green. And the fringes are very slow to putt through, and it makes it difficult. It forces your hands a little bit around the greens and makes you play the shots . . . I just made a bit of a mess on 12, took the percentage shot, the first putt just came up short and I had a woeful second putt.
“You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth on this golf course. I walked off the 12th green about to kind of throw the toys out of the pram, and I just have to kind of remind myself (to stay calm),” said the Ulsterman, who also had some encouraging words for amateur Dunbar who experienced a horrid debut in the Masters.
Of what Dunbar should make of the experience, McDowell said: “I feel for the kid. You don’t wish that on anyone. I remember coming through the ranks and people saying things to me after my tough days that it’s all experience. Those are kind of the most horrible, unreassuring things that I ever heard in my life but 10 or 15 years on and I can see they were all building blocks to who I am and the way I play and my wins.
“But it’s a tough day and there’s no getting round that. He’ll learn and he’s good enough. He’s just got to bank it and move on. He’s probably going to feel embarrassed and small out there but it's a wonderful problem to have, playing at the Masters as British Amateur champion. He’s going to turn pro after this and he’s got a great career ahead of him. He’ll be able to put today behind quickly enough. We’ve all had our bad days, days when nothing goes right.”