Judging a lie in the deep cabbage at Oak Hill is about as a exact a science as forecasting the Irish weather. The minute you think you’ve got it cracked, you end up completely and utterly destroyed.
Pádraig Harrington walked away from Oak Hill on Thursday with a wan smile on his face after taking yet another kicking from the game.
When you’re on a bad run, things go against you.
“It does indeed,” he said, trying manfully to crack a philosophical smile after opening with a six over 76. “And it is frustrating. There is not much you can do about it.
Harrington’s opening 76 featured two birdies, two double bogeys and four bogeys.
Whatever about the three-foot par putt he missed at the 11th or the wedge stone dead that got that shot back at the 13th, his round was summed up by the way he played the five-hole finishing stretch.
It was his front nine but he dropped five shots from the 14th to the 18th to turn in five over 40 and all but book his ticket to Greensboro for next week’s “Last Chance Saloon” for the FedEx Cup, the Wyndham Championship.
Asked to assess his goals for Friday, he said: “A good practice round for me, that’s about it… Because of the FedEx Cup, what I do tomorrow is my last chance of playing competitive golf before next Thursday at the Wyndham.
“By all means I will be giving it my all. I might have to shoot two or three under to make the cut. I might have to shoot level.
“I will be trying my hardest. But there is a lot of good to get out of tomorrow, no matter what the situation is.”
Harrington knows that he must have a top week in Greensboro to qualify for the first event of the FedEx playoff series, which is limited to the top 125 in the points list.
His goal will be to improve his form around the greens having struggled manfully with his chipping and pitching in Rochester.
At the 14th, an uphill par-four measuring 323-yards, he hit driver into the right rough but then flew the green with his second, finishing on the first cut of rough, just off the fringe.
Electing to blade a wedge, he almost holed it but gave his effort and ounce too much pace and watched it trickle slowly past the pin before catching a slope and running off the front of the green.
Worse was to follow at the downhill, 181-yard 15th where a pond on the right lurks menacingly.
Choosing a seven iron, Harrington hit a horrible pull into the crowd and found his ball nesting deep in the heavy rough. With the grain against him and 20 feet of rough to carry, he could see that a mighty swipe could come out hot and run through into the water.
There was no bail out right so he elected to go left into the greenside trap. He never made it that far.
Playing three now from more deep rough, his escape came up short and tumbled down the upslope of the bunker, finishing in a hanging lie.
Force to play a cut up shot with one foot in the sand, the other on the bank, he did well to get it out to seven feet and even better to slot home the tricky downhill putt for a double.
After two putting the 16th, he came up short on the apron at the 17th but ran his approach putt a testing seven feet past and bogeyed again. Another bogey at the tough 18th left him in serious trouble and while he birdied the first and played the front nine well, he took six at the 461 yard seventh when he fwas stymied by an overhanging tree, clipped it with his approach, failed to get on the green with his chip and then missed a five footer for bogey.
“The expectations were reasonably high coming in but I haven’t been very comfortable around the greens last week or this week, which isn’t great,” he said. “Ultimately you are going to miss a few greens, and that didn’t help.
“Hitting the ball, I was reasonably comfortable and I didn’t envisage too many problems. Didn’t really cause myself too many problems. As I said, missing 15 was the biggest error.”
As for his short game woes, he summed up the importance of being clinical at this level.
“I misjudged the shot on 14. Disappointing to do that. Threw away a shot on the second, shot there, shot on 17. Don’t want to be leaving anything out there. Maybe another one on the seventh. Four simple shots and you are back on two over but … 76. I hit plenty of good shots. But I didn’t make much happen. Didn’t score when I was in trouble and didn’t score when I was in good position.”