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Pebble’s taste of home for Padraig

Pebble Beach was like home from home for the Irish yesterday as it shivered under cloudy skies and the cold weather is expected to continue throughout the week, bringing a broad smile to the face of Padraig Harrington.

Okay, he'd had to go out and buy a few wooly jumpers but Harrington is revelling in the rare opportunity to play the US Open on a golf course and in conditions so strongly reminiscent of the Irish seaside in high-summer.

Harking back to 2000, when he came home in fifth as Tiger Woods lapped the US Open field, Harrington recalled: “It seemed to be warmer and windier then and it seemed to be firmer. At the moment, it's like Irish weather out there — it's very pleasant.”

Few Major Championship venues seem better suited to Harrington's strengths than Pebble Beach at this year's US Open.

With great emphasis on discipline, especially with approach shots to treacherously small and hard greens, and a high premium likely to be placed on wedge play out of the tangled rough which surrounds them, Harrington's vast experience, mental strength and renowned short game should stand to him.

“I love the golf course,” he said. “This is a good golf course for me, a good challenge, and any time we get a windy golf course, I'm happy.

“It's a really tough course around the greens. It's a thinker's golf course because you've got to be very smart about your approach shots because you can't short side yourself.”

Harrington hasn't won on Tour since that famous August Sunday in 2008, when he blitzed Sergio Garcia in the US PGA, and he agreed he was ‘desperate' to get back into the winner's enclosure.

“Absolutely,” he said. “When you win events like that, you want to get out there and win another one and it feel like a pretty long time, even if it's really not that many Majors.

“Obviously, I haven't won any ordinary events either but, at times, I can be distracted at those events and maybe focusing my goals elsewhere,” Harrington explained. “But certainly a win, any win, would be nice — it's kind of overdue at this stage.”

Harrington yesterday played the back nine with Waterford's US Open debutant Kevin Phelan. It's been quite a week for the 19- year-old, who also played 18 holes on Monday with 2003 US Open champion Jim Furyk and last year's runner-up Ricky Barnes.

Harrington tees it in a show group in tomorrow's first round with Phil Mickelson and Ye Yang, but most attention will focus on Tiger's first competitive round at Pebble in eight years.

Belfast Telegraph


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