The “Green Mile” wrecked Padraig Harrington hopes of getting his season right back on track as he turned a possible 66 into an opening 73 at the Quail Hollow Championship in North Carolina.
Harrington was just three shots behind clubhouse leader Tiger Woods on four-under par with four holes to play. But he failed to chip and putt for a birdie from just off the green at the driveable 14th and missed three footer for birdie at the 15th before self-destructing with a triple bogey at the 17th and a double bogey at the last.
The final three holes at Quail Hollow make up one of the most difficult finishing stretches on the PGA Tour. But while Harrington negotiated the 480-yard 16th in regulation, he took six at the 217-yard 17th by pulling his tee shot into the lake guarding the front and left side of the green and then hit his tee shot into the creek that protects the left-hand side of the 478-yard 18th and dropped two more strokes.
As a result, Harrington slipped from joint fifth to 85th, eight strokes behind Woods, who opened with a bogey-free 65 that left him two strokes clear of his arch-rival Phil Mickelson, Steve Marino, Jason Dufner and Robert Allenby on seven-under par.
It was a bitterly disappointing end for what promised to be a fabulous round by Ireland’s triple major winner.
He began with two birdies, holing from 12 feet at the first and nine feet at the par-three second before saving par from eight feet at the third.
After another chip and putt par at the fourth, he birdied the par-five fifth and recovered from a pulled tee shot that led to a bogey at the 250-yard sixth by getting up and down from the back trap for a birdie four at the seventh.
Now three-under par, Harrington hit two massive blows onto the 591 yard 10th before two-putting from 16 feet for his fifth birdie of the day.
But the gremlins that have prevented him from recording even one top-10 finish in eight PGA Tour starts so far this season, crept in over the finishing stretch.
His struggles with uphill, right-to-left putts came back to haunt him at the 15th, where he pitched nicely to three feet but lipped out for a birdie.
Woods, meanwhile, appears to have put the “disappointment” of finishing only sixth in the Masters behind him.
After finishing with three birdies on Quail Hollow’s front nine for an immaculate 65, Woods said: “Just because you don't win the Masters doesn't mean you can't win other events the rest of the year. I just didn't win one particular week. Does it feel good? No, it never does."
It was his lowest score for more than 12 months and what pleased him most was the fact that he had just 26 putts.
Mickelson had three birdies and an eagle three at the seventh in a 67, setting up a possible showdown with Woods over the weekend just three weeks after they lit up the final round of the Masters.