Harrington right off his greens at St Andrews

Harrington right off his greens at St Andrews

Padraig Harrington made the Open highlights for all the wrong reasons as he propped up the seven-man Irish challenge at St Andrews.

Slow motion shots of the Dubliner leaping the six-foot wide Swilken Burn in front of the first green were beamed all over the world.

The bad news is that he had just fatted his 80 yard approach into the water and was about to start a video nasty round of 73 with a double bogey six.

A massive 10 shots adrift of Rory McIlroy after a short game nightmare, Harrington confessed that his hopes Open glory are all but over for another year unless he can bounce back with three rounds in the mid-60s.

But he’s convinced that McIlroy will still be there on Sunday afternoon and wouldn’t be surprised to see the Ulster ace build an unbeatable lead after just three rounds.

After a nightmare round in which he bizarrely carried TWO DRIVERS, Harrington said: “I did all the superfluous things well and all the important things badly.

“You have to hit your wedges close and hole your putts and I did neither of those things and paid the price.

“Starting the way I did, hitting a very poor chip shot, I was always trying to get back into it.

“I was treading water while everyone else was going forward. All day nothing was happening for me.

“I didn’t hit it in a bunker, I hit all my tee shots well, I hit my long irons well, everything except for chipping and putting really.

“I know I need to play well from here on but there are 54 holes and I just need to score a bit better.

“But I probably need three rounds in the mid-60s between now and Sunday.

“I also need to get the right side of the draw. I know the leader is also on my side but I need to play 72 holes.

“I don’t have much chance if I don’t get through tomorrow but I wouldn’t be unhappy if it was sunny tomorrow afternoon, for example.”

Asked if he felt he’d just lost the Open, Harrington said: “I don’t feel it, but as it transpires toward the end of the week that could be very much the case.

“I’m not worried about it. Let’s hope it’s going to be my week the next couple of days.”

Harrington plain duffed a wedge into the water at the first, clumsily chipped 12 feet past after a drop and racked up a double bogey six.

He birdied the second from 12 feet to repair some of the damage but bogeyed the third after following a poor wedge with three putts from a swale right of the green.

He birdied the fifth, 14th and 15th to get to one under par but his short game let him down as he bogeyed the 16th and 17th to finish the opening day miles off the pace.

As for McIlroy, Harrington was delighted to see the Ulsterman equal the lowest score in major championship history.

He said: “It was a fantastic score.  Rory was very impressive.  Obviously he finished it off well, which is the hard thing when things are going so well.

“It puts him in great position and even if he plays average the next two days, he’ll still have a chance on Sunday.

“It’s obvious that if Rory continues to play that way he is going to win the tournament. But shooting nine-under par he has put himself in a position that he doesn’t need to play that well and he’ll still have a chance of winning the tournament.

“He is in a great position and if he continues like that he will win by 10 shots.  He doesn’t need everything to go right for him and he will still have  chance of winning this Open on Sunday. It’s the ideal position to be in after round one.”

Sleeping on the lead is tough in majors but Harrington believes McIlroy could end up running away with the title.

He said: “It’s not too early to lead because at the end of the day he could win it over the next two days.

“This round sets him up for it. He is almost guaranteed to be in contention on Sunday.”

As for his decision to use two drivers with different lofts, Harrington explained that it was a wet-weather strategy.

He said: “I don’t hit the regular driver I use in the States very well if it’s wet and windy.  It’s got just 7 degrees of loft but I hit it all day today because there was no wind.

“You can’t get the spin off the face when you are playing in a left to right wind when it is wet.

“So I put in a more lofted driver as well but it obviously didn’t have an effect today at all because we had lovely, dry weather.”