Harrington struggles to find positives

 

PHILIP REIDhears the Dubliner try to come to terms with two four-putts after a round of 74, four-over par

INSIDE THE golfer, there remains an accountant. Boxes are ticked methodically. Routines are followed, such as retying shoe laces – throwing left foot first on to the top of the Wilson bag, then the right – to ensure no slippage on the tee boxes. Pádraig Harrington, a three-time Major champion, is a stickler for doing it by the book.

Which probably explained his puzzled expression as he momentarily stopped atop the temporary stairwell leading down to the ninth tee: the Rolex clock had ticked past the scheduled tee-time of the group in front, but the trio of Tim Herron, Stephen Ames and Joe Ogilvie still hadn’t hit their tee shots.

The back-up – and subsequent delay – had been caused by Phil Mickelson’s retreat to reload in the previous three-ball. And, when Harrington eventually got to hit his opening shot of the 112th US Open, some six minutes later than scheduled, it was a three-wood that was pushed right into the rough. It served as a wake-up call of sorts for what lay ahead.

For a time, in fact, the three-ball of Harrington, Davis Love III and David Toms was, if not the hottest on the course, at least the warmest. When they approached the monstrously long par-five 16th – the kind folk in the USGA reduced it by 10 yards to play just 660 yards – all three featured on the main leaderboard strategically positioned by the green.

Unfortunately for Harrington, the hole – despite a perfect drive down the left side of the fairway – proved to be the first unravelling of a round he had stubbornly kept together. After a bogey on the 10th, where he hit his approach over the back of the green from the left side rough, Harrington recovered with birdies at the 13th (three feet) and 14th (five feet).

The 16th, though, was like a punch to the stomach. His second shot was pulled left, into the rough and blocked out by trees, which led him to lay-up and, then, his fourth shot came up short of the green. Still he had his putter in hand for the par save attempt which he sent two and a half feet past the hole. He missed the short putt, for an ugly double-bogey seven.

Although he rebounded with a good up-and-down birdie from the swale off the back of the par-five 17th, Harrington’s fragility was shown with another double-bogey on the second where he four-putted from off the green. That second double-bogey of his round was compounded by a bogey on the third.

In typical Harrington fashion, he rolled up his sleeves and grinded out a score. He parred the fourth, fifth and sixth – three of the toughest holes on the course – and then drove to the back of the par-four seventh, only to over-run the eagle putt and watch as the ball rolled relentlessly off the green and down the hill. When it’s not your day, it’s not your day. The best he could muster on statistically the easiest hole on the course was a bogey, with the putter in hand for four of those five shots.

When he was done, the accountant in him totted up the numbers and his score came to 74, four-over-par. “I had two four- putts and a three-putt, two stuffed chips on the edge of the green, which is a lot of shots to give away. I don’t think I’ve ever had two four-putts before, and I had two today. I got out of position and paid the price. I only had myself to blame, because the course is super, it’s set up very well, and is very playable.

“Firm greens scare the life out of professional golfers, which is probably why the scoring isn’t as low as it might’ve been. But overall I didn’t think the course was unfair or played that tough. There weren’t too many positives to take from the day, but if I can improve my putting, hopefully I’ll be able to have a better (second round),” said Harrington.