Pádraig Harrington believes Shane Lowry’s nightmare finish to the 2016 US Open at Oakmont can act as a help rather than a hindrance as the Offaly man chases a first major win at Portrush this weekend.
Lowry began his final round with four strokes to spare over Dustin Johnson and qualifier Andrew Landry in western Pennsylvania, but seven bogeys and just the one birdie ensued. The Offaly man ended with a round of 76 and in a tie for second, three shots back from Johnson.
Could there still be some mental scar tissue there?
“It was a learning experience in Oakmont,” said Harrington after his own round of 70 which left him the wrong side of the cut yesterday.
“Very few players can win these things without going through that a couple of times. I definitely think he is a better player because of Oakmont rather than [it being] scar tissue.
“And he has won some big tournaments. It’s not all gone one way or another. He has had some tough ones on the golf course and he has had some good ones, so that’s the most important thing. It would be nice if it was all wins, but Oakmont will definitely be a help to him.”
Lowry echoed that after a 67 which leaves him alongside JB Holmes as the midway leader. The 32-year-old didn’t lead here after the first day, but he was tucked in tightly in Holmes’ slipstream. It meant he was already under the microscope when teeing off yesterday, not least given the struggles of the others in the home contingent.
“He has a great attitude and a winning mentality,” said Harrington. “He has got belief and he has got a strong game. That’s never an issue but it always comes down to whether you believe you can do it and I actually believe he believes he can win. That’s more than you can say for a lot of guys who could be in that situation. Shane does believe he can do it.”
Harrington’s own week has proven to be frustrating and truncated. He said two weeks ago, prior to the Irish Open, that he was a better bet for this gig than that one, but it never quite happened for the two-time Open winner who is still making up for lost time after injury scuppered such a large chunk of his season.
The main problem here lay with the putter. Harrington was more than happy with his play on the greens on Thursday, but the doubts crept in when the putts didn’t drop on the way to a 75 and his touch with the flat stick all but deserted him yesterday. So there was that for starters.
But there was a suggestion too that he never felt completely at ease with his game this week despite some positive aspects to his play. There was no sense of gathering momentum, not even when he was two-under through four holes on day one, or three-under for his second round through the seventh.
Something to do with the mental side of things?
“Yeah, absolutely. I hit the ball great today, really all the way through. I’d be happy if I hit the ball like that every day. It’s very hard when you lose momentum on the greens, it’s amazing how hard it is. You are questioning ‘is this the right read?’ and you are hitting your putts with a little bit of doubt. It just goes against you.
“That’s the nature of the game.”
Darren Clarke was another to miss the cut, in his case thanks to an ill-timed triple bogey on the 18th which took him from level-par to three-over.
Rory McIlroy and Amateur Championship winner James Sugrue fell just the one stroke short on two-over, but via very different routes.
Sugrue’s biggest regret — and main memory of the week when asked to reflect on it all — was a triple bogey of his own, in this case at the punishing 14th. It cost the Mallow youngster the status of leading amateur and the Silver Medal that comes with it, as none of the other five non-pros made the cut either.
“Honestly, that’s what I’ll be thinking about going home in the car for sure... a triple bogey is a triple bogey.
“It’s tough to make cuts and do well when you make a triple bogey on the back nine. That will be a hard one to forget.”