Harrington proud to be Olympian: "Nobody can take that away from us"

Harrington proud to be Olympian: "Nobody can take that away from us"

He might be seven shots off the lead but Pádraig Harrington feels like a winner already after becoming an Olympian in Rio.

"I would say I was more nervous on the first tee than I would have been when I played my first major," the 44-year old said after an opening, one under 70.  

Pádraig Harrington

Pádraig Harrington

"It was very exciting.  I said it to the guys walking off, now we are Olympians and nobody can take that away from us.  When you think about it, most weeks, you have 156 guys playing, 155 losers. This week, you have 60 guys playing, and we are all winners."

The Dubliner had an average day on the greens, mixing four birdies with three bogeys in a round that left him seven shots behind pace-setter Marcus Fraser of Australia, who shot an eight under 63 to lead by three from Canada’s Graham DeLaet and Henrik Stenson, the Open champion.

"I was very nervous, just like the first time you tee off St. Andrews, the first time you tee off Augusta,” Harrington said. "Thankfully they give you a big, wide target off the first.  This golf course is really nice that way.  If you want to play safe to some big targets and if you want to go for it, it challenges you to take it on. 

"It was very exciting.  There was certainly some trepidation over the last couple of days.  I picked up a little bit of a neck injury and I just was a little bit concerned that, well, I think I would have teed it up anyway.  

"But you're worried, you want to be healthy and strong, because there is a feeling  and I never get this feeling, ever, in any event; there's a feeling that this might be my one and only opportunity. 

"I tee it up in majors, four majors every year, and if I was injured or didn't play well, I'd just go, well, there's always another major coming up.  There's always a major in a few weeks or a major next year, 16, every four years.  

"But this event, there's a genuine feeling of, this may be my only chance.  Who knows in four years’ time where I’ll stand in the world of golf and I realise how quick it changes. 

"So yeah, there was a feeling of trepidation, a feeling of joy after hitting the first shot.  I'm an Olympic athlete now forever.  I said it to the guys  and you know, what's different about this event, every week we play, 156 guys tee it up.  There's 155 losers.  This week, 60 guys tee it up, 60 winners.  We're all winners.  Every guy is feeling good teeing it up here, thinking, life is good, I’m an Olympic athlete. 

"It's just so unusual for us.  No matter what happens this week, it would be nice to win the Gold Medal, Silver Medal, Bronze Medal, but everybody is walking away with something, which is a lot different to our regular weeks in golf.”

AS for his round, Harrington was disappointed not to go lower.

My score should have been a lot better," he told RTÉ Sport as he finished the day tied for 17th

"I played nicely, had a few chances and on another day a few putts would have slipped in. While one under is not the end of the world, I certainly feel frustrated about my score and I’ll have to give myself a good talking to about staying patient for the rest of the week.

"Everything was solid, everything was good. I hit a lot of nice putts that didn’t go in but I’ve no complaints. 

I would have say there was a lot of sheep in this decision they kept just following each other out the door.
— Pádraig Harrington

"I might have made one bad swing in the day and if you did that every day of the week you’d be shooting lots of good number, so I do have to stay patient.

"It’s a low scoring golf course, it really is, there’s so many opportunities. The par fives, they’re reachable.

"Okay you can make a mistake and make bogeys or double bogeys but there’s so many opportunities that you really feel like you should be shooting lower. I think every player, even the guys that shot -6 will come in thinking they should have done better."

Harrington was asked about the absentees and the Zika virus and labelled them stayaways "sheep" while ridiculing the mosquito threat.

He told the Irish Mirror:

"I think completely, yeah,” said the Dubliner. “There’s a few contentious objectors who just don’t see why professional golf is in the Olympics.
“If that’s your opinion, that’s fine.
“I would have say there was a lot of sheep in this decision they kept just following each other out the door.
“You know what, I haven’t seen a mosquito - no, I’ll tell the truth, I saw one in my room and he didn’t come to a good end.
“That’s it – and I had no mosquito spray on today.”

West Waterford's Seamus Power, the other Irishman in action in Rio, was among the later starters and posted a level par 71 to end the day tied 27th.


Open champion Henrik Stenson birdied the 15th and 18th for a five under 66 worth a share of second place with DeLaet with Belgian Thomas Pieters, Frenchman Gregory Bourdy, Czech Alex Cejka, England's Justin Rose and Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello tied for fourth after 67s.

Rose even had a hole in one at the 189 yard fourth.

As of the Americans, Matt Kuchar was the best of the bunch with a 69 as Patrick Reed (72), Bubba Watson (73) and Rickie Fowler (75) left themselves work to do.