'My short game was good enough to handle the odd bad shot': Harrington one off the lead at Irish Open

The three-time Major winner carded a super 68 on the opening day at Ballyliffin.

LAST UPDATE | 5 Jul 2018

Adam McKendry reports from Ballyliffin

PADRAIG HARRINGTON CREDITED his chip-in eagle on the par-five 17th at Ballyliffin as the catalyst for his four-under par opening round at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

Having played his opening seven holes with six pars and one bogey, there wasn’t a lot to shout home about for Harrington, who was one-over and not threatening to improve it.

But out of nowhere he drained a chip shot from just off the green at the 17th – his eighth hole – and that proved to be the momentum changer he needed to take into the back nine.

Harrington would go on to add birdies at the fourth, sixth and seventh holes, carding a 68 and leaving him just one shot adrift of early leader Ryan Fox.

The three-time Major winner admitted: “I needed momentum at that stage. I played well early on and a couple of things were starting to get away from me, and just to chip-in and get myself under par, I felt like I should have been under par at that stage.

“It’s always nice, you know, on a links golf course to be under par, have one in the bank, so you always feel like you can go forward from there.

“If you’re a couple over par, you’re kind of saying, well, where are they going to come from; when am I going to make some birdies. It was big in terms of momentum.”

The 46-year old is now right in contention at his home tournament, which seems to justify his ridicule of the 66-1 odds placed on him before the week began.

The key, says Harrington, is a new swing thought that he’s brought into the week. It may only be Thursday, but it already seems like it’s paying off for him.

Padraig Harrington at the first tee Oisin Keniry / INPHO Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

“I planned to go with a swing thought and I stuck with it,” he said. “Even though it started well and in the middle of the round it went away, but I stuck with it. You know, if you’re going to go with something, you’ve got to stick with it. Doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad, you’ve got to stick with it. Chopping and changing is the worst thing.

“I saw some good stuff. I wasn’t as good as I would have liked to have been in the left-to-right wind. I was afraid of pulling it. You know, you could have anything going on in your head and have the same sort of thoughts.

“You know, there was some good and bad but on a links golf course you could get away with that at times and I knew I could create some opportunities out there. Thankfully, my short game was good enough to handle the odd bad shot and I hit plenty of good ones.”

Like most players coming in after their rounds, Harrington was full of praise for the course, admitting that while it wasn’t playing overly tough, it was a fair test.

With the wind whipping around off the sea, both the 13th and 17th are playing downwind, meaning the par fives are easily reachable for most in the field, while par fours like the sixth could be driven.

Padraig Harrington hits his approach to the eighth green Oisin Keniry / INPHO Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

It means there are scores to get out there, but Harrington was quick to shut down any notions that players wouldn’t have to earn their rounds in the 60s.

“I would consider the fairways exceptionally narrow,” he warned. “We’re hitting driver down that ninth hole and it’s probably 18 yards wide. Like I hit a good drive and missed the fairway and that’s going to happen a lot to a lot of players. That doesn’t bother me.

“It’s a really good test. You’ve got to think all the time. There’s a lot of strategically-placed bunkers and every one of them, I really don’t know if there’s a bunker you can get to a green out of out there. The first priority is missing those bunkers.

“Around the greens, there’s some big surfaces. It’s hard to get the ball close but in general, and there’s not too many areas that you can’t get up-and-down from. So more strategy off the tee. Have a go for most of the pins and work with it if you miss the greens.”

Graeme McDowell finished one under par, while Paul Dunne, Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy are currently in action.

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