As Pádraig Harrington, his morning’s work done, sat back and watched the afternoon’s play at the 145th Open Championship, the good feeling derived from his opening round will have dissipated with every birdie putt sunk by Phil Mickelson.
The American’s stunning eight-under-par first-round 63 was the score two-time Open winner Harrington feared, putting distance between the Irishman and his chances of a third Claret Jug.
He had shot an opening 70 at Royal Troon, one-under par, but was wary unless the benign conditions that had helped the early starters evaporated, there was a low score there for the taking by the later wave.
The weather did not worsen and Mickelson shot that low score to leave the three-time major champion seven shots off the pace heading into a second round that promises far more challenging weather conditions today and into the weekend.
“There’s going to be a lot of work for the next three days,” Harrington predicted.
“I wouldn’t want to see too many guys at five-under and more. If there are twos, threes and fours, that’s not too bad. If there are a lot of people up there, you are going to need to get to 12-under par at the end of this week which would be hard going.
“But look, I played average today and I shot one-under. I will take another four days like it. At some stage I will have — well, I suppose I did have one today — I will have a couple of good runs and maybe make a few more birdies in a stretch that might get me to the double-figures, if needed.”
If Harrington is to compile those sort of runs he will want to avoid any further mishaps at the eighth, the Postage Stamp hole. Yesterday he carded a double-bogey five there and if not for a couple of rare birdies on the more challenging back nine, at 16 and 17, his situation might be even less palatable.
Double bogey for Harrington on Postage Stamp. Back to level.— PaddyPowerShops (@PaddyPowerShops) July 14, 2016
“Oh, it’s straightforward if you hit a nice tee shot,” he said of the famous 123-yard par-three. “It is little bit intimidating because you know if you hit a bad tee shot you are in dire trouble.
“I got plugged in the left hand (Coffin) bunker so I now have no stance going backwards. If I come out any further right, I can’t get to the pin because there is such a slope left of it.
“I am going to have to come out towards the front knowing there is a bunker there. Then it didn’t run far enough into the bunker so I am going to have a foot out of the bunker. Then you are thinking, ‘well, don’t knife this over the back of the green’.
“And you hit it fat and it’s 20 feet short and then you misread the putt and that’s how you take five.”
The pain did not blacken Harrington’s heart at the thought of the hole: “I love it. I love golf holes like that.”
It was a testament to Harrington’s mental strength the double-bogey at eight did not diminish his confidence heading towards the more difficult back nine, where he logged good par saves at the treacherous 11th and again at 13 and then birdied the par-five 16th with a 51-foot putt and par-three 17th.
“I took the attitude ‘okay I’ve lost two shots but if I play the hard holes well I’ll make up two shots on the field coming home’.
“A lot of players would have gone out there thinking ‘get a few birdies on the card and I have something spare for coming home’ but that double meant I had nothing spare. I knew if I wanted to stay in the tournament, and keep myself alive.
“I was going to have to have a good back nine, not drop any shots and make any birdies. And that’s what I did.”
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