TURNBERRY, Scotland (AP) — Trying to become the first player in 53 years to win a major three times in a row, Padraig Harrington was more than happy to be five shots off the lead after his 1-under 69 at the British Open on Thursday.
After missing five cuts in a row before a low-key victory in Ireland, he feared that miserable trend on the regular tours might have continued into Turnberry.
“I would have taken this score. Anytime you’re shooting 60s in a major tournament you can’t be too displeased,” the Irishman said. “I would say I hit the ball well but played probably with a certain amount of trepidation. I wasn’t exactly the most confident after the last couple of weeks.”
Harrington ended the day five behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who carded a 6-under 64 to edge two former Open champions, Tom Watson and Ben Curtis, by one stroke. Harrington was tied for 37th.
The two-time defending champion, who also took last year’s U.S. PGA Championship, admitted he was short of confidence arriving at these links on the west coast of Scotland and played safety-first golf, avoiding the thick rough, bunkers and risky shots at the pins.
“I hit a lot of nice shots where I was aiming in the middle of the green. I didn’t really have the confidence to chase the pins and was trying to hole from 25, 30 feet most of the day,” he said. “I got up and down when I needed to get up and down. While I wasn’t shooting the lights out, it gives me hope for the next three days.”
Harrington says his goal is to stay quietly behind the leaders and make his move toward the end of the tournament. He wasn’t expected to win at Carnoustie two years ago when he beat Sergio Garcia in a playoff and had to shake off a wrist injury before finishing four strokes ahead of Ian Poulter at Royal Birkdale a year ago.
“I wasn’t in control of my ultimate score. I was just trying to play each shot as it came, and I wasn’t trying to think what score I had to shoot,” said Harrington, who parred 15 holes and made two birdies. “It would have been nice the last couple of holes. I had a few 20-footers, if I could have knocked one of those in and been a shot better maybe, I would have been very pleased with the round.
“But one shot ain’t going to make a difference when it comes to Sunday. There’s a lot of golf to be played, 54 holes. If I play the golf from here on in, hopefully I’ll be there or thereabouts with nine holes to play – we all know anything can happen in those situations.
“It’s a long week, 72 holes and I’ll be patient. And if I keep rolling them at the hole, they’ll drop.”