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Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington recovered nicely from trouble when he needed to on Thursday. (Heathcote/Getty Images)

Solid 69 important to Harrington's growing confidence

Two-time defending champion Padraig Harrington teed off Thursday unsure of how he'd play, especially since he's still working to implement some swing changes. He walked off the 18th green feeling much better.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

TURNBERRY, Scotland -- Padraig Harrington has won the last two Open Championships, but the Irishman played Thursday’s first round in the 138th renewal with a certain amount of what he called “trepidation.”

The swing changes he implemented earlier this year have been slow to take hold, and he has missed his last five cuts combined on the PGA TOUR and European Tour. That’s why the 69 he shot at Turnberry on Thursday was so important to the cause.

“I would have taken this score -- anytime you're shooting 60s in a major tournament, you can't be too displeased,” Harrington said. “…  I wasn't exactly the most confident after the last couple of weeks. 

“I hit a lot of nice shots where I was aiming in the middle of the green,” he explained. “I didn't really have the confidence to chase the pins and was trying to hole from 25, 30 feet most of the day.

“It was good.  I got up and down when I needed to get up and down.  So certainly, while I wasn't shooting the lights out, it gives me hope for the next three days.”

Harrington’s round of 1 under left him five strokes off the pace set by first-round leader Miguel Angel Jimenez. He opened with a 74 in 2008 at Royal Birkdale and also trailed by five while his deficit at Carnoustie was four after an opening 69.

Learning to trust his swing again has been a challenge for the reflective Harrington. So he’s been working with sports psychologist Bob Rotella on building his confidence each day. That win in last weekend’s Irish PGA -- his third in a row at that event -- couldn’t have hurt, either.

“Every round of golf I play is better and good for me,” Harrington said. “As I said, I felt like I was striking the ball well.  It's just a question of trusting it a bit now, and the more rounds I play and the more I get up and down when I miss the odd shot, the more confidence I'm going to have.”

Harrington said he made a few adjustments on the range on Monday, and he felt good overall about the way he performed in the first round. Instead of aiming for the middle of the greens, though, he knows he needs to get in a more aggressive frame of mind if he’s going to make up ground.

“I just need to be a little bit more confident and maybe take on a few more pins,” he said.

Harrington did have some chances, though. He two-putted the par-5 17th hole for his second birdie -- leaving the eagle try short -- and he left another shy of the hole on No. 18 that would have brought him closer to the lead.

Just as crucial, though, were the confidence-building par savers. The second hole was a perfect example -- Harrington’s approach seemed headed at the pin but got swept up in wind and missed the green. A few weeks ago, the Dubliner said, he would have made bogey or worse. On Thursday, he chipped to 4 feet and made the putt for par.

“That gave me a lot of confidence going forward,” Harrington said. “I haven't been doing that.  … That's what's been missing from my game.  I haven't exactly been saving myself.  I did that early on. 

“I gave myself opportunities later on, and if a couple of more putts dropped, yeah, we'd be a little lower. In terms of winning this tournament it doesn't really make any difference whether I holed those putts or not.  It will make more of a difference Sunday afternoon.”
 

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