Perception is everything and while Phil Mickelson was happy with a one-over 71 from an eventful opening round at the PGA Championship, Pádraig Harrington was left feeling distinctly underwhelmed by his similar effort.
With American Jimmy Walker holding the clubhouse lead at five under par after the morning wave of starters in the final major of the year, Harrington will not be staring down both barrels when he begins his second round at Baltusrol this evening at 6.05pm Irish time.
Late starters Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry were slightly less favourable positions as they turned for home last night, Lowry two over par and McDowell three over, not exactly looking like early contenders but nor were they having to think about a special score today in the way Rory McIlroy was following his four-over 74.
The same feeling was put to Harrington following his three-birdie, two-bogey, one double-bogey round, that it was not great but he had not shot himself in the foot as far as the championship was concerned. “It feels a bit like that,” he countered. “I was hitting wedge into every hole so it feels like you should have done better.”
Harrington, the 2008 PGA champion at Oakland Hills, near Detroit, said his putting had been his Achilles’ heel yesterday as he struggled to cope with their speed and composition, poa annua grass reminding him of home, as well what he felt was a lop-sided course set-up regarding pin positions.
“I created a lot of chances, obviously there’s nothing too easy out there. You’re always a little bit wary on the greens and I didn’t putt very well overall. I need to free up in the greens.
“There’s a massive slope, they’re reasonably quick and they’re poa annua... it’s like putting in Stackstown.
“They have got them in good condition , I just putted tentatively. If anything I played a bit tentatively, played like I was playing in a major. It did seem like, and I don’t know this, but it did seem like they had two different people set up the front nine and the back nine.
“The greens on the front nine were the easiest pins I have ever seen at a major. The pins on the back nine were stout, to say the least.
“I created chances all the way through. I wasn’t in trouble all day.”
Yet Harrington appeared deflated, cursing his ill-fortune from play that on most days might have rewarded him better.
“On four I hit it down the pin (seven iron) and I just didn’t get enough of it,” he said of his double-bogey five. “Another day that would have been stone dead, it comes up short in the water. I hit a nice pitch, it doesn’t spin back. It was a five from nowhere and my bogey on nine and 10 were both, three-putt on nine from the fringe, and on 10 bellied out from the fringe after hitting a beautiful shot in.
“I hit a poor tee shot on 18 (which he would par), outside of the that I was in A1 position all day. If I play like that every day, some days it would be above average. Today it was below average.”
Darren Clarke was not expecting to make waves this week, his mind solely focused on his Ryder Cup captaincy and that was reflected in his opening-round score, a four-over-par 74.
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