Padraig Harrington confessed that he can’t afford a repeat of the bad luck that dogged him in his second round 73 if he is to win his third straight major title and his first green jacket at Augusta.
The Dubliner had an eagle, a birdie and four bogeys in a round he will remember for a series of lips outs - including a birdie try at the last - as well as a penalty stroke on the 15th green.
Tied for 19th on two-under par, seven strokes adrift of leaders Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry, the Dubliner knows he now has little room for manoeuvre if he is to keep his dream of the Paddy Slam alive.
“I cannot take another day like that where I had half a dozen, certainly four putts I was picking out of the hole today which missed,” Harrington said. “I wouldn’t be able to absorb those over the next two rounds. You can absorb some of it, but at this stage I don’t think I can.
“Here at Augusta it is not a big deal to be seven behind. There are a number of players under par and we are expecting a tougher challenge over the weekend. The trouble with today’s round is that it doesn’t give me much leeway going into the weekend. I can’t afford to have those horseshoes over the next two days.”
After coming back to win the US PGA with a pair of 66s, Harrington knows he can still win here, though there are now 25 players within two shots of the lead.
“It is well within me,” he said. “Going out there the next two days anyone out there under par can shoot a couple of scores. It has been done, there have been a couple of 65s and I certainly think I can play the golf and I am not out of it yet.
“I won’t be able to absorb any more [bad luck] so if things don’t go right for me this weekend I won’t be winning, but we will see what happens.”
Harrington bogeyed the first, birdied the third but then dropped shots on the seventh and ninth to slip eight shots off the pace on one-under par.
His felt that his round might be transformed by an eagle three at the 13th, where the hit a 193-yard five-iron to 35 feet and drained the putt.
But he was soon left to rue his bad luck at the par-five 15th, where he was penalised a stroke after his ball was blown three feet away as he addressed a four foot birdie putt.
Known as Firethorn, the hole has been a true thorn in Harrington’s side in recent years. Back on 2007, he ran up a seven and an eight there and took a bogey in this week’s first round.
Explaining what happened, Harrington said: “I had a four footer for birdie and as I got over it the wind started to move. I was more thinking of line than anything so stood off to reassess it and a big gust came and blew it in the opposite direction to about three feet away. Penalty.
“It happened to me in Houston a while ago and at the time the referee ruled that as I wasn’t standing over it, even though I had addressed it, it wasn’t a penalty. I knew I had addressed it and up to that point I always knew it to be a penalty so the main thing was I holed the putt afterwards.
“The wind just gusted up. That happens. I was quite chuffed to hole the putt. What’s good about it is that I didn’t have a problem walking off the 15th. I thought I got my concentration right.”
After failing to chip and putt for par at the 17th, he suffered another blow at the last when he failed to get his reward for a superb, fairway bunker shot that finished 12 feet.
Back to his old putting routine this week - “Because I have more feel that way” - he looked on in frustration as the ball caught the edge of the hole and spun around and out.
“To have a horseshoe on the last leaves a bit of a sour taste. I was more disappointed with 17 and 18 than 15. It was one of those days things didn’t go right, like the one on the last,” he said.
“Thankfully I holed a nice putt for eagle which made my round what it was. Certainly I left a number of shots out there and I can’t afford to do that Saturday and Sunday.”