Harrington becalmed in sea of high expectations

Padraig Harrington has confessed that the pressure of trying to win major No 4 is no laughing matter.

But eight-time major champion Tom Watson believes the Dubliner’s never say die spirit will see him emerge from the “doldrums”, if that is an accurate way to describe a two-year victory drought.

Watson got a close up view as Harrington missed the cut in the Open at St Andrews - his third failure in seven major starts since his claimed the US PGA at Oakland Hills for his third major win nearly two years ago.

After saying goodbye to St Andrews on the Swilcan Bridge, Watson was asked for his impressions of Harrington’s game over the first two days.

After watching the Dubliner shoot rounds of 73 and 77 to miss the cut by four strokes, Watson said: “He struggled. He just didn’t hit enough good shots and hit a couple of bad shots.

“But the wonderful thing about Padraig is that he fights to the end. He doesn’t ever give up. There’s no give up in that guy. That’s what I love about him.”

Harrington might be fighting hard to end his victory drought but he admits that having three majors on the kitchen counter doesn’t make it any easier to win a fourth.

In fact, it makes it even harder to take the bad days.

Struggling to make Colin Montgomerie’s Ryder Cup side, Harrington said: “Winning majors only bring more expectation and it certainly makes it harder going forward, that’s for sure.

“Look how long it took Phil Mickelson to get to four majors. Look how Ernie (Els) got stuck on three, Vijay (Singh) got stuck on three. It doesn’t make it any easier, that’s for sure.

“Trying to get to that fourth brings its own expectations and pressures, there is no doubt about. And having three majors certainly it doesn’t make it as easy when you don’t play well. That would be more the point.

“Since I won my last one, I have really only had one really good run at it and that was in the US PGA last year. I know it is not that long ago since I won one and it definitely brings its own pressure. But I think it also helps that you know you can win one if you get it all right. This just wasn’t my week.”

One off the lead with 10 holes to play, Harrington blew his chances at Hazeltine by taking a quintuple bogey eight at the eight hole to slink home tied for 10th.

He added: “At the end of the day you just regroup and I’m looking forward to the Irish Open next week and the US PGA at Whistling Straits. It’s not that I’m playing badly, I just haven’t won.”

Has he got groove issue since the ban on box grooves was implemented this year?

“No, no issue at all. Certainly it is a lot tougher without the grooves. And it certainly played into my hands, the old grooves. There is no question about that but as I said, my stroke average is the third lowest in the States. I have had 14 top 10s in the last year. I really can’t complain about my form. I just haven’t won. That’s about it. Everything esle is there. The change in grooves is an issue for everybody. It makes it tougher, there is no doubt about it. My wedge play has been excellent and I expected it to be good this week but, maybe the first hole, I probably tried to hit it a bit too hard off a soft fairway - and it was soft at that stage - and that’s not a great idea.  In hindsight if I was back there, I would have hit sand wedge (instead of lob wedge). But hindsight is a great thing.”

Whatever the reality of the grooves on a sand wedge, there is no escaping the fact that Harrington now has his work cut out to qualify automatically for October’s Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor.

He’s just one big win away from making the side on merit but with players like Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia also outside the nine automatic places, captain Colin Montgomerie is worried about his star names needing wildcards.

Set to announce Paul McGinley as one of his vice-captains today, Monty said: “I don’t want to waste picks, if I can put it like that, on my so-called big hitters, I want them in the team.”

Harrington spent the weekend working on the range and insisted he’d be grinding on his short game ahead of next week’s 3 Irish Open in Killarney.

Down two spots to 17th in the world, he said: “There is no doubt that the focus between now and the Irish Open will be on my short game. I have got to tidy that up.”

Putting will be near the top of the list after a poor performance on St Andrews’ greens.

“I putted hiorribly,” Harrington said. “Putting is like that. You roll in a few putts and everything is good. I am long eough at this to realise what putting is like and it does go like that. You lose confidence in your reading, you lose confidence in your aiming. You lose confidence in … I had a real issue today (Friday) in that I actually considered my routine. Every time I went to go through my routine - and I ground my putter very early in my routine - I was panicking about the ball moving and of course, then I am disctracted by that.”

Open champion Louis Oosthuizen has pulled out of the Irish Open to head home to South Africa to celebrate his first major win.

But the field in Killarney will be stronger than ever with US Open champion Graeme McDowell and St Andrews heroes like Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry set to shine.

Lowry rose nine places to a career high of 79th in the world thanks to his share of 37th with Glasson’s Colm Moriarty, who jumped 123 places to world No 502.

Philip Walton, 48, has been handed a sponsor’s invitation for Killarney.

The 1989 runner up said: “I was told there was an outside chance this year but didn’t want to get ahead of myself – so I’m really delighted it has been confirmed.”