Pádraig Harrington and Darren Clarke are looking to continue Ireland’s good major championship form this season as they tee it up in the US Senior Open Championship at Saucon Valley Country Club.
So far Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry have posted top-5 finishes in major championships with Seamus Power making three cuts in his first three major starts of his career, including a top-10 finish at the PGA Championship, while Harrington finished in a share of 4th at Kiawah Island last year.
Jim Furyk is the defending champion after his victory last year earned him a place in the US Open Championship at Brookline last week.
Harrington arrives with some impressive major form having finished runner-up to Steve Stricker at the Regions Tradition in what was his first senior major appearance. The 50-year-old has three second place finishes in six starts in what is his inaugural season on the PGA Tour Champions.
The Dubliner has been impressed with what he has seen of the Old Course in practice and feels the course setup is akin to a traditional US Open layout.
“I’m impressed; it’s a good setup,” said Harrington, who captained Europe at last year’s Ryder Cup. “Heavy rough and very fast, undulating greens. It’s very traditional, which you expect of the USGA. It’s exactly on point.”
The three-time major winner has been battling a knee problem – which he had surgery on five years ago – and with six tournaments scheduled over the next five weeks, walking is going to be a huge challenge for him but it’s one he hopes to overcome.
“I’ve had the surgeon look at it. He operated on my knee five years ago. He had a look at it and felt can I handle it? I said, yeah, I can handle what’s going on. He said, fine. Going in and having it scoped again would be like potluck.
“Most weeks I’ve been pretty good. It’s been very bad. I don’t know why yesterday it was terrible. I’m going to go get some more physio, probably use the compression and ice it as well.
“The thing is it stops me walking, it doesn’t stop me hitting shots. So at this stage it’s manageable. I do have good days and bad days. The physios have certainly helped it out at times.
“Yeah, look, it’s something to work on. I don’t expect that I won’t get through this week, but I’m playing six tournaments in five weeks coming up, and they’re all walking.”
Harrington’s best US Open finish in his career was a share of fourth place at the Olympic Club in 2012 when Webb Simpson won while he had a number of close shaves in the championship including at Winged Foot in 2006. Despite this US Open having the word ‘senior’ in it, he is still preparing for it like a normal major championship.
A rookie on the Champions Tour this season, Harrington expects to be in contention this week and feels one of the big challenges this week will be to manage his expectations and his temperament.
“I suppose for me it’s slightly different at this stage. I’m coming into these as the new kid on the block. I’m in good form. I think I’ve been runner-up three of my last six events. So I’m kind of coming in trying to manage my own expectations.
“Looking at this golf course, it’s certainly one that suits me, so it really is getting my head around it. It kind of feels like how I would have been trying to manage my tournament preparation back in my heyday where I’d be going into these events, not hoping to win, but strongly expecting to be in contention.
“My caddie gave me a bit of a lecture today about being grumpy, which is kind of the way you get when you’re trying to organise yourself before an event that you feel you have a good chance in. You’re kind of trying to get everything perfect before it starts.
“Those are the sort of feelings I would have had back in the day. You kind of have to manage your expectations.”
Harrington tees off alongside Colin Montgomerie and his compatriot Darren Clarke who is also searching for his maiden major title at senior level.
Clarke has been slowly returning to form with four consecutive top-20 finishes. The 2011 Open champion also shot weekend rounds of 68 at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship and he is in good form heading into the heat of the season.
The Portrush native has been consistent without really threatening to be in contention but with the Open Championship in three weeks Clarke will be eager to head to St Andrews in good shape.
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