The good news is that Padraig Harrington finished joint ninth behind Phil Mickelson on his debut in the Waste Management Phoenix Open and rose five places to 47th in the world.
The bad news is that he was third overnight and had another of those disconcerting Sunday putting rounds.
He holed nothing longer than a six footer in a closing 70 that was bettered by 43 of the other 73 players who made the halfway cut.
He had 31 putts, not including a few from just off the green, and obviously still has some work to do to perfect his new routine and build on the confidence he has built in the first three starts of the year.
Eight strokes behind eventual winner Phil Mickelson starting the final round, Harrington needed a stellar day on the greens to put any pressure on the left-hander. He didn’t and Mickelson shot a 67 to win by four shots from Brandt Snedeker (65) on 28 under par.
Harrington finished 11 shots behind after making bogey from the middle of the fairway at the last where his six foot par putt never threatened to drop.
Okay, he birdied the third and fourth to cut the gap to six but in reality he missed an eight footer for eagle at the former and tapped in a three footer at the latter following a wonderful eight iron from 181 yards. The longest birdie putt he holed all day was a three and a half footer
Mickelson had even thrown in a bogey at the second to make things interesting but Harrington’s remote chances of winning for the first time on the US Tour since the 2008 US PGA ended before the turn.
Mickelson struck the first blow, holing an outrageous 56-foot putt for a two at the seventh, where he had to run the ball to the far edge of the fringe before watching it arc back to the left and tumble down a tier before slamming into the back of the cup for an unlikely birdie.
That extended his lead to five over Brandt Snedeker and to seven over Harrington, who would put himself out of the running by driving behind a cactus at the next and drop a shot after being forced to chip out left handed.
No-one is averse to nerves and even Mickelson admitted afterwards that he was twitchy as he headed out to try and secure his 41st PGA Tour win, his third in the Phoenix Open and the eighth of his career in Arizona.
While Harrington as eight behind, Mickelson was well aware of the threat posed by Snedeker, who was just six behind.
He expected the opposition to come at him on a course with relatively flat and perfectly manicured greens. Even Johnny Miller made the same point about the “easy” greens during the TV broadcast, insisting: “If you can’t putt these greens, you might as well go home.”
“He’s one of the best putters we have on tour and he’s going to come out and make birdies on these greens that don’t have a ton of contour and you can make it from anywhere and he’s going to have a good round….”
On the difficulty of winning for the first time in 51 weeks, Mickelson put harrington’s recent struggles into perspective:
“I was nervous heading out. I hadn’t won in while (last year’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am), haven’t been in contention as often as I wanted to be… It feels good get the golf out and also in the final round to be able to control by thoughts and emotions and do what I needed to do.
“But it was important for me to not try to press the issue. Not try to force it. To just take control of my game and my thoughts and play some sold golf. And after the first few holes where I let a few shots go, I was able to regain control of what I was thinking and what I was saying and direct the ball where I wanted it to go.”
Harrington played the back nine in level par but was never really comfortable on the greens.
At the 11th he drove left into the water and bogeyed, missed a 10 footer for birdie at the next, two putted the par-five 13th for birdie but then missed from 15 feet at the 14th.
His finish had all the hallmarks of a man who was keen to see the Superbowl.
After a two putt par at the par-five 15th, he pushed his tee shot wide right at the signature 16th and got up and down with the putter from the swale.
A birdie at the 17th where he drove the green and putted up dead from the fringe, got him back to two under for the day but he ended it by overshooting the 18th from around 140 yards. ater chipping to six feet it was no real surprise that his par putt never looked like going in.