On a day when Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry departed the Rochester, New York, course satisfied — if not ecstatic — about their first rounds in the final Major of the year, Harrington’s 76 left the three-time Major winner thinking ahead already to next week’s Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina and his bid to break into the top 125 for the lucrative FedEx Cup play-off series later this month.
Currently lying 128th in those standings, Harrington will still be trying to improve his ranking more dramatically by making the cut here, but the ever-pragmatic Dubliner said he was viewing his second round today (6.25pm Irish time) as potentially his last before next week’s final regular PGA Tour event before the play-offs.
“Practice, that’s about it. It’s irrelevant [making the cut]. The practice round, go out and try to play well, whatever the score is. That’s what I’ll be doing... I see an opportunity to go and play a practice round, really.
“I don’t mean I’ll be trying any less but it’s my last chance of playing competitive golf until next Thursday. That’s the way I look at it.
“I don’t know what the cut’s going to be, I might have to shoot two or three under par, maybe I’ll have to shoot level par. It’s too early to tell but I’ll be trying my hardest to make the cut and there’s a lot of good to get out of it, no matter what the situation is.”
Teeing off his round on the back nine, Harrington was quickly on the back foot, bogeying the par-three 11th after finding a greenside bunker off the tee, before returning to level par with a birdie at the 598-yard par-five 13th.
The 2008 champion was quickly back in trouble, though, missing the fairway at the par-four 14th on route to bogey and then missing another par-three green at the 15th and taking three shots to get out of the rough, the double bogey taking him to plus three after six holes.
The woeful run continued at the 17th, a tough par-four dogleg-right hole protected by deep rough and trees, particularly down the left. Harrington was on the fairway but two-putted for bogey.
Another bogey followed at 18 but the Dubliner steadied the ship with a birdie at the par-four first and parred the next five holes before a costly double at the par-four seventh sent him to six over.
“The expectations were reasonably high,” he said. “I haven’t been very comfortable around the greens last week or this week, which isn’t great, but ultimately you are going to miss a few greens, and that didn’t help. Hitting the ball, I was reasonably comfortable and I didn’t envisage too many problems. Missing 15 was the bigger error.”
McDowell was pleased with his opening level-par 70 as he left behind disappointments in both the US Open and Open, having gone into both strongly fancied to do well.
A round of two birdies and two bogeys leaves him within touch of the leaders and the Portrush star was satisfied with his ball-striking — if not his putting.
“Hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens, which is what you’re supposed to do on this golf course,” McDowell said. “My pace was a little off down the first 10 or 11 holes, a bit heavy-handed on the greens. Not sure if I just kind of subconsciously thought with the rain overnight they would be a lot slower. But they putted well this morning, the greens. I didn’t make a lot of putts, unfortunately, but I was very happy with my general ball-striking.
“You’ll not get this golf course any more straightforward than it was this morning: Barely a draft of wind, receptive greens. I’m not going to say it was there for the taking but it was a good score out there.”
Lowry was similarly disgruntled by his putting en route to an opening two-over 72 in his second PGA Championship start, although satisfied with his round otherwise.
“I’m happy enough, I definitely could have shot a better score today,” Lowry said. “I feel like my putting let me down, even though I did drain two long putts. No confidence from inside 10 feet, so something I am going to have to cure. I feel like if I keep playing the way I am playing and manage to hole a few putts you never know what could happen this weekend.”