A ‘bullish’ Padraig Harrington needed all his experience of now 21 PGA Championships to fight his way into the weekend rounds at Kiawah Island.
Harrington ended a run of three missed cuts in the championship he won in 2008 with rounds of 71 and 73 for a 36-hole level par tally on a testing and windswept Kiawah Island course.
The Dubliner grabbed three birdies but posted four bogeys and was just inside the top-30 and trailing five shots behind early clubhouse leader, Phil Mickelson when he finished his round.
Mickelson, who turns 51 next month, fought back from being two-over after just nine holes to birdie five of his closing seven holes in a three-under 69 to finish on five-under, and as he seeks a second PGA Championship trophy and a sixth major.
And Harrington, who was grouped with Mickelson and fellow PGA champ, Jason Day, spoke highly of ‘Lefty’ who Harrington first met at the 1991 Walker Cup at Portmarnock GC.
“Phil has the bit between his teeth and I think he believes he can do it in these conditions, just like myself,” said Harrington.
“Myself and Phil would find it easier to compete on this style of golf course in these conditions in a major tournament all the time. You can be patient on these courses, and obviously you’ve got to make a few birdies, but it suits somebody who is a player, somebody who is thinking.
“I’m bullish about where I am and I’m sure Phil is too. From watching from the outside with Phil, he’s prepared to sort of give it the — if it’s not a good week, he’s going to push no matter what. He’s not here just to make the cut.
“Phil’s not here to just finish, even 15th would be a disappointment. You know what? Even second would be a disappointment for Phil.
“I’m a little bit like that, too. I’d have no interest if you turned around to me this week and said to me now I’m going to finish 10th, I’d actually say no, because it doesn’t do my career any good.
“It doesn’t do Phil any good. That might make it harder for us at times because we over-push and over-try because winning is the only thing that will bring any satisfaction to myself or Phil”.
Harrington was rock-solid on his outward nine, the back-9 on the scorecard, with a four-foot birdie on 13 sandwiched among eight pars.
There was an incident on the green at the 15th or the sixth of the round with the three caddies having trouble keeping some of the spectators quiet. Harrington comfortably holed a three-footer for par when there was a very audible remark from Harrington’s long-time caddy, Ronan Flood: “When they’re putting, just shut-up!”
Also, the three-ball was officially ‘on the clock’ early in their rounds and warned of potential slow play penalties if they did not pick-up the pace.
“We were on the clock for about two, three holes. We started on the clock on the 3rd. We had a lost ball. So yeah, we probably played on the clock for about four holes,” said Harrington.
“For me personally, it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the clock. It’s also been a long time since I’ve been in such a good TV group, so managing that sort of stress is something different.
“If you want to be a good player, unfortunately you’re going to end up a lot of times in those sort of groupings where it gets a little tighter and more time is taken, and all of a sudden…. it’s very easy to stay off the clock if you’re playing terrible golf; put it like that.”
Harrington turned into his inward nine and with the wind having picked-up appreciably he managed birdies at his 11th and 15th holes but dropped shots at his 10, 13th, 14th and missed a four-footer for his par at the last.
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