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The Open sees Harrington enjoys sentiment but little success

 

By Lam Kelly

Padraig Harrington's return to Royal Birkdale yesterday was an altogether different experience compared to that epic July Sunday in 2008, when he raised the Claret Jug aloft in victory.

He was, as he has been all week here, welcomed warmly by the thousands who flocked to see the opening day of the 146th Open Championship, especially on the amphitheatre that is the 18th green as he walked up the fairway at the end of his round.

Harrington admitted there was a frisson of sentiment at the warm applause that resounded from the packed stands.

"There seemed to be a lot of that for me today. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed walking down 17 and I enjoyed walking down 18. So yeah, there was a little bit of sentiment in it," he said.

Beyond that, the three-time Major champion was left with a sense of disappointment that his card was a birdie-free zone after he signed for a 73, three-over par.

A round of 16 pars, and just two blemishes - a bogey on the par-three seventh and a double-bogey six at the 11th, a par-four - left him slightly deflated.

And just to round off an uninspiring day, he was hauled off immediately after signing his card for a drugs test.

This was not the conclusion to round one that Harrington had hoped for when finalising his plans for the 21st Open of his career.

"I kind of played as expected. I am probably a little disappointed in the early part of the round that I didn't make more of it.

"I had three decent birdie chances, a couple of decent chances early on, and if I had taken one or two of those it would have created some momentum.

"Then I missed a short putt on the seventh for par, and it was tough enough after that I suppose," said Harrington.

It was no great consolation yesterday, but his five-wood, five-wood, one-putt eagle three at the 17th in the final round of that Open nine years ago to take a four-shot lead to the 18th tee will always be remembered, unlike yesterday's performance on the 17th which will soon be erased from Harrington's ­memory.

"I played a four wood off the tee into the rough left which is quite nasty on that bank.

"Hit a great lob wedge out of it. I hit a beautiful pitch straight down the pin and thought it was stone dead.

"I went up, and it was 15 feet short, and I left the putt short.

"You know what, I am glad I played it the way I did in 2008. I wouldn't swap it around," said Harrington.

A few weeks short of his 46th birthday, Harrington needed to find some early inspiration but it never materialised.

He can only look forward to today's round, although the weather forecast is for rain and wind.

"I will be trying my hardest tomorrow, regardless.

"The key is to get a bit of momentum in the round and there is certainly a good one in there, a good score.

"But we will wait and see what happens. It's not like you can go out there and force it either," he added.

Shane Lowry carded a 72, a result that left him feeling very disappointed in the immediate aftermath of the round.

Lowry opened with a birdie three at the first hole where he hit a five-iron to nine feet and holed the putt, but gave the shot back to the course with a bogey at the second.

He reeled off seven pars ­before notching his second birdie on the 416-yard par-four ninth.

A three-iron off the tee and a wedge to 20 feet set him up for the birdie, and he turned at one-under, very respectable for the conditions.

Immediately, though, Lowry gave that shot back to the course with a bogey on 10.

Another bogey on 13, and a three-putt double-bogey at the 16, were daggers to the heart, and though he salvaged something out of it with a birdie four at the 17th, Lowry struggled to find too many positives.

"My patience levels are being tested really quite a lot at the moment.

"I'm trying my best and I feel like I've put in the best week of preparation I've put in for a tournament.

"Even coming here I felt I was playing great the last few days.

"I went out and made three birdies and an eagle on the back nine and shot four-under yesterday in a match with Pádraig (Harrington) and then I go out today and play the back nine in 39. That's just kind of what's happening at the minute," said Lowry.

Darrren Clarke, the 2011 Open winner, shot 75 (five-over) and will struggle to make the cut.

"I had five three-putts. My putting was a disaster," said Clarke.

Belfast Telegraph

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