Pádraig Harrington feeling lucky at PGA National

‘Playing badly and scoring well is a lot better than playing well and scoring badly’

 Pádraig Harrington   plays a shot during the first round of The Honda Classic at PGA National   in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Photograph:  Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Pádraig Harrington plays a shot during the first round of The Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Thu, Feb 27, 2014, 20:33

Pádraig Harrington is hoping his luck might finally be changing after he took advantage of some good breaks to open with a two under 68 in the Honda Classic at PGA National.

The 42-year old Dubliner must win one of the five events he’s planned between now and the Masters if he’s to avoid missing a trip down Magnolia Lane for the first time this century.

His opening effort put him in good position, just three strokes behind early leaders Rory Sabbatini and William McGirt and he certainly wasn’t complaining despite missing a few birdie chances coming down the stretch.

“I didn’t play so well today but I scored well,” Harrington said after his round as he contemplated giving the driving range a miss. “I haven’t been doing that for a while so I am wondering if I should leave it alone. Playing badly and scoring well is a lot better than playing well and scoring badly.

“I thought it was going to be a fraction better at the end because I played quite erratically for the first 13 holes and then I played solid enough on the last five. For years I’d have played similar and scored the same and come off the course complaining about my game. So it’s nice to score well.”

After a stuttering start that saw him hole a 10 footer for par at the first and bogey the second, his day was transformed when he hit a three hybrid from 228 yards to eight feet at the third and rolled in the putt for an eagle three.

“An eagle does make a big difference to your scorecard on a tough course like this,” he said. “It was a bad enough start and you don’t want to be giving shots away on this golf course. You don’t feel like there are a lot of places to pick them up. I got an opportunity by hitting two nice shots but the bonus was holing the putt after that.”

He had his breaks too, coming within a few feet of the water at the ninth and even close to going out of bounds at the 13th. But while he bogeyed the ninth, he birdied the 12th from 12 feet and was unlucky not to pick up a shot or two coming home, especially at the tough 17th, where he lipped out from eight feet.

“If anything, I hit a couple of bad three woods off the tee,” he said. “I hit one in the hazard on nine, which is a long way off line and on 13 I was lucky not to be out of bounds.

“Another day I would have been out of bounds and cursing my luck. Outside of that I suppose I am being a bit critical.”

Even after a poor tee shot at the last he managed to give himself a birdie putt but while he could have shot three or four under quite comfortably, he was happy to accept a sub-70 score on what was the toughest course on the PGA Tour last year outside the majors.

“I’ve been playing better than my scores,” said Harrington, who learned yesterday that he has been given a sponsor’s invitation for next month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. “Today I scored better than I played which I haven’t seen for a while, so I’ll take it.

“I need to win to get into the Masters. So I will be thinking about it if I have a chance to win the tournament for sure and trying not to get distracted my it.”

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