Padraig Harrington was frustrated by his wedge play and his putting after a third round 71 left him six shots adrift of Graeme McDowell and Jim Furyk entering the final round of the US Open at The Olympic Club.
The Dubliner, 40, hit the ball superbly for most of the day but he complained that he didn’t hit his wedges close enough or hole enough putts.
After playing the first six holes in textbook fashion, he bogeyed the seventh and 11th and while he made a two at the 13th, he couldn’t pick up shots coming home and knows he will need to shoot the lights out today to win his fourth major title in five years.
“It’s easily the highest number I could have shot,” said Harrington, who finished the day tied for 18th on five over par. “The course was there for the taking. I had a lot of opportunities and just didn’t take them. I didn’t hit my wedges close enough and I hit my longer shots in to 15 or 20 feet, which was nice but you can’t always hole those putts.”
The first six holes at The Olympic Club are five of the six toughest holes on the course. But Harrington, who was striking the ball brilliantly from tee to green, chiseled out six regulation pars to remain just five strokes behind the overnight leaders Jim Furyk, David Toms and Tiger Woods on four over.
Having struggled with his putter for more than a year only to solve the problem at Wentworth a fortnight ago, the three-time major winner had a feeling of liberation as he arrived on the US west coast for his 15th US Open appearance.
Asked if he had felt like a tightrope walker without his safety net for the past 12 months considering his struggles on the greens, Harrington smiled and went a step further.
“More like a man going over the Niagara Falls on a unicycle with someone on my shoulders,” he beamed. “I had spent so much time practicing my medium range putts and was probably using that stroke on my short putts and decelerating.”
The USGA watered the Olympic Club’s parched greens overnight and again yesterday morning but the course was still playing hard and fast as Harrington set about chasing birdies.
Holing putts, however, proved to be as tough as ever on greens that were running at more than 13 on the stimpmeter.
After tickling a slick 15 footer from the fringe past the edge at the second, he watched a 20 footer slip five feet past at the par-three third, a 12 footer dive away at the fourth and a 30 footer frighten the hole at the fifth but stay above ground.
Even after hitting a glorious approach to 12 feet at the sixth, he failed to see the putt drop for birdie and remained tantalisingly five shots off the pace.
A bogey at the driveable seventh, where he could only hack out sideways to the rough next to the green before failing to get up and down, did not help his cause.
Yet Harrington felt the real body blow came at the 11th, where he spun his approach with a wedge off the front of the green and three putted from there to go two over for the day.
While he birdied the par-three 13th from 18 feet he failed to pick up shots down the stretch.
“I’m very disappointed,” he said. “I couldn’t have played better, to be honest. I could have hit my wedges better. I’m just not dialling in the numbers on my wedges at all.”
After taking 29 putts despite hitting just 10 greens in regulation, he added: “You’ve got to hit it close, then I didn’t putt very well. That could have easily been a 67 or something and I’d be sitting there, going out tomorrow not thinking I’ve got to play lights out.
“That’s what’s disappointing. I’ve had two days now out of three where I’ve scored as badly as I could.”