PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON’S reputation as one of golf’s greatest scramblers may have been in jeopardy prior to yesterday’s second round of the 3 Irish Open at Killarney.
However, the manner in which he somehow got round the Killeen Course in 67 shots was testimony to the man’s incredible ability in this department.
Playing partner Graeme McDowell admitted that he was “given a lesson in the art of getting the ball in the hole, I had to stand there and watch chip-ins and bombs and all that kind of stuff.”
The third member of the party, Damien McGrane, simply commented: “You have to laugh.”
The old chestnut of playing ‘army golf’ certainly applied to Harrington who went right one minute and left the next and yet included only one bogey in moving to seven under par for the championship and into a challenging position to repeat his 2007 victory at Adare.
The two most graphic examples of Harrington’s day came at the 11th and 17th holes.
The first of these stretches to 480 yards and is a par four for the members. He duck hooked off the tee and was fortunate that his ball ended up in a spot from where he was able to move it about 20 yards into the light rough.
From there he cracked a powerful long iron to the heart of the green and sank the putt for the most unlikely of pars.
The next piece of drama came at the 17th. This time he carved the drive to the right and did well to find his ball at the bottom of a furze bush. Fearful of improving his lie, Harrington asked for a ruling but the referee took almost quarter of an hour to turn up. Padraig duly put his ball back in play to the official’s satisfaction but still looked set for bogey when his third finished just off the back edge. From there, however, he executed the deftest of chips and the ball took the contour of the green perfectly and rolled into the centre of the cup.
As if to celebrate, he then played the 18th perfectly, splitting the fairway off the tee, punching a seven iron of 169 yards to 20 feet and rolling in the putt. The massive gallery that followed him round went wild with delight and he can expect similar support once again throughout the weekend.
However, he also appreciates that he is unlikely to get away with such wayward ball striking.
“I get frustrated when I drive it well, hit it on the green and miss 20-footers,” he maintained. “It is a lot easier to play the game when you struggle a little bit off the tee, recover and hole a five or six footer for par. You walk to the next tee feeling good about yourself. Sometimes it’s not a bad way to be.”
Harrington enjoyed several more rubs of the green yesterday, most notably on the 14th where a 40-foot putt would have whizzed eight or nine feet past had it not hit the back of the hole and dropped in!
“I lost focus there,” he admitted. “I think I was listening to the commentary in the tented village and I kind of wavered off and hit the putt too hard.”
As for the outrageous par on 17, he explained that “sometimes the rules can work in your favour. That’s why I needed a referee. I just wanted to confirm it was all above board. By the time I had taken my stance, the bush had moved a good two feet. I knew the rule but I was making sure that nobody could question whether I had infringed the rule. That’s part of the game, some times you get a good break and sometimes you don’t.”
THE subsequent chip-in delighted him (“with about three feet to go, I stepped after it and I’m not normally that cocky but it was one of those days when everything I looked at I felt was going to drop”) and it was much the same situation on the 18th.
He continued: “On 18 I had this 20-footer and it was a case of it ain’t going to miss. Sometimes you can’t figure out a way of getting a three footer in the hole and this time I couldn’t figure out how I was going to miss from 20. That is a nice feeling, it doesn’t last but it’s nice when it happens. I drove it superbly Thursday and drove it poorly Friday so I’m very happy that my short game is good. It’s more important to hole putts and chip-ins in terms of scoring.
“You would like to have both ends of the game but that’s the Holy Grail and we very rarely put that together.
“There aren’t too many ahead of me and while I need to play well on the week-end, I’m happy enough.”
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