Open champion Padraig Harrington insisted he must be more aggressive if he is to win a third Claret Jug on the trot.
The Dubliner took a giant step forward when he carded a one under par 69 that showed he is close to his best.
But he’s still searching for confidence in his game and knows he has to make his own luck and grab the championship by the scruff of the neck if he is to win major No 4.
After carding two birdies and just one bogey in a tentative display, he said: “I spoke with Bob Torrance and the plan was to get better day by day in terms of confidence and belief.
“I certainly struck the ball well and if I trust it a little bit more, it looks pretty good. I changed a few things on the range on Monday and I felt like I had it in my swing today.
“I am just making sure I focus on my target and try and trust it. I just need to be more confident and maybe take on a few more pins.
“I got up and down when I needed to get up and down and there while I wasn’t shooting the lights out it gives me hope for the next two days.
“If I play the golf from here on in, hopefully I will be there with nine holes to play and we all know that anything can happen in those situations.”
The key to Harrington’s round came on the second and third, where he saved brilliant pars that gave him the confidence to chisel out a solid opening round.
Left of the green with his approach to the second, he faced a terrifying chip up a steep slope but played it to perfection to save his four.
It was a similar story at the tough third, where he pushed his drive into the rough but hit a glorious hybrid pin high and wriggled in the par putt from six feet to keep his round going.
Short with a 25 foot birdie chance at the par-three fourth, he birdied the fifth from 12 feet and then got up and down brilliantly for par from greenside sand the par-five seventh after bunkering his tee shot.
He continued the Houdini stuff at the tough eighth, where he again got up and down for his par from the bank right of the green before playing solid golf on the back nine with 10 successive two putts after conservative iron shots.
His only mistake came at the tough 16th where he pulled his approach into the rough and failed with a 20 footer for par.
And while he was disappointed to leave an eagle chance short at the 17th and another birdie opportunity short on the last he believes he is slowly recovering his confidence after a morale-shattering run of eight missed cuts from 15 starts this year.
Pointing to the second and third as key, he said: “The second would have been a perfect example. I pulled my second shot straight down the pin and I am watching it and it trickles off the green.
“I would have taken five or six there a couple of weeks ago but I was committed to my chip, got it to four feet and holed the putt.
“You make your own luck in this game at times and definitely that was a case of me salvaging a really good par. I am sure plenty of guys missed down there today and not many you have got up and down.”
A 69 left Harrington in the top third of the field and well within striking distance of the leaders.
Happy with his score, he said: “I would have taken the score before I went out that’s for sure. Any time you shoot in the 60s in a major tournament you can’t be too displeased.
“I hit the ball well but I played with a certain amount of trepidation and I wasn’t the most confident after the last couple of weeks.
“I hit a lot of nice shots where I was aiming in the muddle of the green but I didn’t have the confidence to chase the pins and was settling for trying to hole from 25 or 30 feet for most of the day.”