Harrington trapped in mental labyrinth

Padraig Harrington failed to break par in a major for the tenth time in a row when he opened with a three over 75 in the US PGA at Whistling Straits.

The Dubliner, 38, has dipped into red figures just four times in 23 rounds since he captured the US PGA at Oakland Hills two years ago.

He did well to shoot 75 too, getting up and down six times for par. But he preferred to concentrate on the mental errors that lead to four bogeys and a double bogey six on a day when scoring was low and the rain-softened course was playing at its easiest.

“I was very confident going out and played aggressive shots tentatively when I would have preferred to play conservative shots aggressively,” Harrington said, meaning he was mentally poor. “I was feeling good and overplayed a few shots. It’s a disappointment. I was very happy going out there.”

In a repeat his his opening round in the Open at St Andrews, Harrington again mishit a simple wedge shot at his first hole, chunking it slightly and coming up in the rough topping a greenside bunker.

He parred that one but buried his third to the par-five 12th in the back bunker to go and was always on the back foot for the rest of the day.

While he birdied the 14th and hit a fine third close to save a miraculous par at the long 15th after a hooked drive, his round escaped from the moment he missed a short birdie putt at the par-five 16th.

Feeling he had to be aggressive the dangerous, par-three 17th, he “over-drew” hit four-iron, finishing among rock and long grass inside the red hazard line on the edge of Lake Michigan.

He did well ot advance the ball but a double bogey five was the result and another shot went at the 18th, where he missed the fairway and bunkered his second short of the green.

“John Daly came up short with a four-iron first and I said well, I have got to hit mine and draw it in there,” Harrington said of the 17th. “Other times I would have been happy just to hit it to the right hand side of the green and try and get down in two from there. Maybe if I had holed the putt on the one before… But that’s golf, isn’t it. Maybe I was a little too aggressive.” 

He came home on level par, sandwiching bogeys at the fourth (three putts from just off the green) and the eighth (bad drive, average chip, poor putt) with birdies at the reachel par-five fifth and short par-four sixth (20 footer).

“I suppose you could say that I try too hard,” Harrington said of his struggles to get an early momentum in the majors this year. “That’s a possiblity, no doubt about it. I was in great stead going out there. Coming off the last two weeks I really thought I was hitting the ball well and I was looking forward to going out there.

“I probably wasn’t that patient. The first couple of holes are two very simple birdie chances and I played them one over. It would have been nice to have a better start and I would have played holes like 17 a little more conservatively if I was a couple under par. But I was always struggling on the wrong end of it out there.”

Harrington needs to finish in the top four in Wisconisn to have any chance of securing his sixth Ryder Cup cap on merit.

He said he’s still trying to win the tournament but on the evidence of his first round showing, he will do well to make the cut.