Pádraig Harrington confessed that he was caught out by the speed of the greens as he opened with an otherwise solid one under 69 in the FedEx St Jude Classic in Memphis.
The Dubliner, who is back in action for a three week run in the US after taking a two-week break, played solidly for the first 12 holes before a three-putt bogey at his 13th hole and the threat of flyers from the rough made play cautiously on the way home.
Inside the top 10 when he finished his round alongside Phil Mickelson (71), he ended the day tied for 27th and just three strokes behind leaders Nathan Green, Martin Flores, Davis Love III, Stuart Appleby, Glen Day and Harris English at TPC Southwind.
“I was quite pleased with my one under when I was seeing that everybody else was struggling,” Harrington told PGA Tour radio.
“I had gone through about 12 or 13 holes - I three-putted my 13th I think. Up to that I was two under par and it should have been more.
“And it was comfortable, it was real easy. And when I three-putted that hole it was tough coming home. I kept getting out of position and I get terrible flyers out of this rough. It was tough and it is only going to get tougher this weekend.”
The greens were the biggest conundrum for the Dubliner, who will need to at his best with the putter in next week’s US Open at Merion.
“One thing that might catch the players out today and it certainly caught me out was that I feel the greens got quicker from yesterday,” he said. “They were slow yesterday and today they seemed very quick.
“Now whether that’s just me, I don’t know, but it certainly would have thrown a few players. I know I knocked my first putt six feet by on the first, I found the putting green fast and I was tentative all day because of that.”
Starting on the back nine, Harrington birdied the 13th thanks to a 176-yard approach to three feet, failed to get up and down from sand for birdie at the par-five 16th and missed a chance from nine feet at the next to turn in one under par.
He missed a 13 footer for birdie at the first but got up and down from 20 yards for birdie at the par-five third before he dropped his only shot of the day at the par three third.
After hitting a 182-yard tee shot to 32 feet, he knocked his birdie chance three and a half feet by and missed the return.
From there it was a question of not letting further shots slip away and he scrambled well to save pars at the fifth, sixth, seventh and ninth.
“It’s real tough with the grooves we use nowadays,” he said when asked about the flyers his group got in the rough. When you get into that type of rough, it just shoots out of it.”
While there was a gentle breeze blowing, Harrington said it sounded stronger than it was actually blowing, leading to more confusion.
“The sound of the wind felt like it was blowing harder because it was blowing in the leaves in the trees but it really wasn’t blowing at all out there,” he said. “You were leaving shots if you were trying to hold it up in the wind.
“It was a perfect day for scoring and the greens have plenty of give in them too. You could stop an iron shot pretty quickly so I just see it getting tougher for the week, which is the nature of this golf course.”