Brittle Harrington goes from Major to minor

Padraig Harrington went from Major to minor at the US Open as his reputation as golf's rubber man took a battering.

The Dubliner lifted the Claret Jug last year thanks to his amazing ability to bounce back from disaster with a smile on his face.

But that smile was nowhere to be seen as he made up the numbers at Torrey Pines last night following his devastating 77 on Saturday afternoon.

Fighting to emerge with a respectable finish, Harrington confessed before that he is trying too hard to play perfect golf.

Only victory interests him now and he needs to change that attitude quickly if he is not to face a career of constant disappointment and become a one-hit Major wonder.

Brutally honest in his assessment, Harrington said: "The game is sound enough but not resilient enough in terms of just trying too hard.

"I have to ease off a little bit more and be a little bit more accepting and just go with it rather than always feeling that anything which happens against me on the course is knocking me back.

"I should be a little more easy going on myself and not putting myself under so much stress to do everything correctly, you don"t have to do it right.

"I don"t have to be near perfect, I can manage to get it round fine without that. But I am definitely trying a little bit to hard."

After battling his way back into contention after an opening 78 with a brilliant 67, Harrington's tournament ended after a nightmare four-putt for a double bogey on Torrey Pines" undulating sixth green.

Rocked by that disappointment, he double bogeyed the seventh as well when he drove into a fairway bunker and bit off more than he could chew with the recovery.

That mistake sent the Dubliner spiraling to a six-over par round that left him a hopeless 12 shots behind leader Tiger Woods starting the final day.

Reflecting on his four-putt, he explained: "It certainly knocked the stuffing out of me, I wasn"t fully with it on the next tee and then that led to a double bogey there as well.

"It really cost me four shots so it took me a long time to settle the ship after that. I was struggling for the next six holes. So really that one four putt cost me six shots."

The truth is that Harrington had nothing left in the tank when he was called upon to dig deep.

And his lack of resilience can be traced back to the exhaustion he felt at the end of last year's Major winning season as well as a series of questionable scheduling decisions this year.

Now under pressure to retain his Ryder Cup place, his only victory since his triumph at Carnoustie came in the unofficial Hassan Trophy in Morocco last October, where he picked up a massive appearance fee reputed to be $1 million.

Shingles wrecked his winter preparations for the 2008 season and forced him to miss the Buick Invitational and an important first look at the Torrey Pines track that has crushed the hopes of last year's other first time major winners, Angel Cabrera and Zach Johnson.

Apart from Phil Mickelson, the other first-time major winners over the past decade have faded from the scene under the pressure of trying to live up to their big name reputations.

David Duval, the 2001 Open champion, is a spent force while Todd Hamilton, Ben Curtis, Michael Campbell, Shaun Micheel and Rich Beem are still waiting to contend in another major.

Harrington's bout of shingles in January left him behind the eight-ball in his early season preparation.

But he has also put himself under huge pressure to perform in the Majors, dismissing his share of fifth place in the Masters as unsatisfactory when victory is all that counts.

Before heading out of the final round, he added: "I"ll be trying my best, if I was trying to finish 69th instead of 70th. But I am interested in other things.

"I probably should be a bit more patient. You ca'"t win it on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and there is certainly an element of me trying too hard to do that."

Moving on after a Major victory has proved to be tough for the likes of defending US Open Cabrera or recent Masters champions Johnson and Trevor Immelman.

All three got sick due to the stress and Harrington is still paying the price of his success.

Immelman said: "It takes a little time to come to grips with the fact that you've done it. And then it also takes a little time to figure out where you're going to go from there."

Kiwi Campbell compared following a Major win with descending Everest, explaining: "Nobody teaches you to climb down again. People die coming down. When you make it your goal in life, climbing Everest or winning a major, nothing prepares you for what's at the other end."

Harrington won his Major once he decided to play each event on merit instead of trying to prepare for some far-off future.

Now he's experimenting with a two-event build up that is putting him under massive pressure to perform in "the big one."

The Dubliner will have learnt a massive lesson from Torrey Pines but what's ironic is that already knows the answer.

His mental coach Dr Bob Rotella wrote the best selling book, "Golf Is Not A Game of Perfect."

It was once Harrington's bedside reading favourite and he needs to sit down and read it again and get back to what helped him win a Major in the first place.