Harrington happy with even par U.S. Senior Open start

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Padraig Harrington (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Pádraig Harrington was content with his even par opening effort as a sodden Saucon Valley showed its teeth on the opening day of the U.S. Senior Open.

The three-time Major winner struggled with the speed of the greens for his first nine holes and despite opening up with a birdie ‘4’, he made the turn in two-over after trading four bogeys with just one more birdie.

However, Harrington responded in typically resolute fashion on his inward half, making birdies at the 12th and 14th holes on a blemish-free back nine, signing for 71 and in the clubhouse at even with only 11 players managing to break par on a gruelling opening day.

“I struggled with the pace of the greens, so a couple of three-putts on the front nine set me back,” Harrington said.

“But I drove the ball well, and particularly well as I got into the round, late run in the round. So I pretty much broke the back of the back nine with the driving and had a lot of opportunities.

“I’m happy enough with level par, but it certainly could have been better.”

Harrington finds himself trailing four shots behind the leaders Jay Haas and Mark Hensby and having just turned 50 this year, the sweet swinging Dubliner hopes to use his physical strength to his advantage this week, particularly if the rough remains as thick and juicy as it did on day one.

“I’m certainly happy with the golf course,” he said. “I don’t like playing in the rain, but I know — it was a substantial advantage — most guys out there know if they miss a fairway they can’t get to the green, where majority of the time if I did miss the fairway, I’m not under that same pressure, let’s say. I can still get it up there.”

Harrington also revealed that the knee injury that’s been severely hampering his ability to walk of late shouldn’t be an issue for the next three days.

“The physios have been doing a good job, and the leg is a lot better than it was Monday. It didn’t bother me at all today. I keep going in there. They’re actually doing a very good job. They’re right on top of it. I’m happy with where it is at the moment. I don’t envisage it being an issue for the next three days,” he said.

And that’s good news given there’s a ton of experience to catch after the opening round in Bethlehem, not least 68-year old Haas who bettered his age with an opening four-under 67 to share the lead with Aussie Hensby.

Haas became the fifth player in U.S. Senior Open history to shoot his age, joining Tom Watson, Hale Irwin, Harold McSpaden and Jerry Barber, who did it nine times. Barber was the oldest first-time winner of a major in the 1961 PGA Championship.

“That’s a pretty good score to break (your age) on a course like this,” said Haas, who had shot his age six previous times on the PGA TOUR Champions, but never in a major.

Haas and Hensby were a shot ahead of Steve Stricker, Rocco Mediate, Paul Broadhurst and Tim Petrovic. Darren Clarke posted two bogeys, a double and a single birdie in an opening three-over 74.

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