Nightmare start for Harrington at US Open

Padraig Harrington effectively played himself out of contention for the US Open Championship at Torrey Pines yesterday after opening with a dismal seven-over-par round of 78.

Padraig Harrington effectively played himself out of contention for the US Open Championship at Torrey Pines yesterday after opening with a dismal seven-over-par round of 78.

He stands ten shots behind the shock first round leaders Justin Hicks and Kevin Streelman in 112th position and faces an enormous task in surviving into the week-end. When Harrington rolled in an eighteen-foot putt for a birdie at the first hole, it looked as if he might be on the way to the kind of score that would have put him in position to add this title to the Open Championship he captured at Carnoustie last July.

But it all began to unravel as early as the picturesque par three third hole where his tee shot landed six feet from the pin only to bounce forward, trickle over the back and race rapidly downhill and into a hazard. Right beside where his ball rested was a sign warning players to “beware of rattlesnakes” but it was more a touch of human frailty rather than threats of that nature that infiltrated Harrington’s game from there to the finish.

Things went from bad to worse. Two-over-par 37 to the turn wasn’t fatal by any means but the journey home took 41 shots as his self belief and confidence took a hammering as one indifferent shot followed another.

Even when he managed a couple of birdies at the 13th and 15th, he immediately handed the shots back. His driving of the ball was excellent early on but gradually degenerated along with the rest of his game.

“I missed two fairways on the back nine a five wood”, he lamented. “But the major problem with my game was my chipping. When a shot ran through the green or whatever, I just couldn’t get the next shot close enough. I knew the greens would be difficult in the afternoon so that’s no excuse. Making the cut is certainly doable and the greens will be a lot smoother in the morning but my short game needs to be an awful lot better.”

Those players finishing within ten shots of the lead after today’s second round survive into the week-end and that could yet be Harrington’s saviour.

Streelman and Hick head the leaderboard at three-under-par, one shot ahead of a quartet including 2006 champion Geoff Ogilvy, Rocco Mediate, Stuart Appleby and Eric Axley.

Tiger Woods recovered from an indifferent start to leave himself at one-over while his Thursday playing partner Phil Mickelsen posted a round of 71 for level-par.

Charlie Mulqueen, Torres Pines GC, San Diego.

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