MARANA, Ariz. -- Through 11 holes, Graeme McDowell was playing steady while Padraig Harrington was missing some short putts. Consequently, the fifth-seeded McDowell was 3 up.
But McDowell then lost the next three holes, two with bogeys, to square the match. The battled between the Northern Irishman and the Irishman remained tight for the rest of the way until Harrington found trouble late to lose two of the final three holes.
McDowell said a key hole was the 15th when he followed Harrington's birdie with one of his own to keep the match squared.
"That kind of got me buzzing," McDowell said, "and I made some nice swings coming in."
McDowell advances to play Alexander Noren in the second round of the Jones bracket.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Yes, that was Padraig Harrington kicking footballs, not futbols, into the grandstands at the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale on Saturday. He'll probably do it again during the final round, too.
The Irishman came to play in the Waste Management Phoenix Open for the first time this week determined to embrace the atmosphere, and as it turns out, Harrington has been energized by it as well.
The three-time major champion fired a 63 on Saturday that matched his second-lowest score on the PGA TOUR and landed Harrington in Sunday's final pairing with Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker. Granted, he's eight strokes behind Mickelson, tied with Ryan Moore, but Harrington is very pleased with the state of his game.
And with good reason. Harrington started Saturday with three straight birdies, then added another at the fifth hole and eventually made the turn in 30. He got to 14 under with a birdie at the 11th hole, then bounced back from his lone bogey with a birdie at the par-5 13th when he two-putted from 15 feet. He flushed it at the next par 5 and capped his scoring with a 9-footer for eagle.
Harrington said the quick start set the stage for the round.
"Then your confidence is open," he explained. "I kept creating chances from then on in. If I look back at the round, you know, it's possible I could say I had a lot of chances that I didn't take, but ultimately, you know, my game is in good shape so it's easier to be patient when your game is in good shape.
"You don't feel like this is your only opportunity, let's say."
Harrington said the idea to kick the footballs into the crowd at the 16th hole came from his sponsor, Wilson, who makes the official football of the NFL and Sunday's Super Bowl. He used his caddy for a placeholder for the first, then punted another six or seven. He said he was more nervous doing that than hitting that 8-iron to 16 feet.
"I'm a professional golfer," Harrington said. "I have hit 8-irons before in my life under pressure. I have a routine, and I know what I'm doing. When it comes to kicking especially an American football, I have never done it before.
"I did not want to screw up the first one along the ground, for sure. I did want to get it airborne a little bit of distance. I found when I punted it, the first three or four, I hooked them quite a bit, and then the last one, I actually made sweet contact and kicked it over the stand, actually cleared the whole thing."
Playing the final four holes was a kick for Harrington, as well. He liked seeing Irish flags in the gallery and he loved that the fans at the 16th amused themselves by chanting the quintessential soccer refrain "Ole, ole, ole."
"Having gone to football matches in my day and sang it myself, when it's sung to you, it's a special," he said.
Harrington, who is seeking his first TOUR win since he won his second and third majors in 2008, likened the emotions he felt playing the closing stretch at TPC Scottsdale to the way he felt making his professional debut.
"You know what you're doing, but it's hard to keep your mind from racing away from you," he explained. "... The adrenaline is pumping over those last three, four holes. Very exciting indeed."
Take the 17th hole, a 337-yard par 4. Harrington said he hit his driver as easy as he could there because he was so pumped up after walking out of the stadium at No. 16.
"It is exciting," Harrington said. "You have to embrace that. That's what we're here for. We play a lot of events during the year and good events, but this is unique here. ... It's unique in a great way. I really do like the idea. You know, you've got to enjoy it. You've got to love it and, as I said, embrace it.
"Yeah, your emotions run away a bit. ... You're feeling the exact same emotions as you would be if you're trying to win the tournament and you're only out there. It's exciting. You know, you'd love golf to be like that certainly a lot of weeks."
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As Phil Mickelson heads to the back nine, Padraig Harrington eagled the 15th hole to pull within three strokes of the leader.
Harrington, who started the final round nine shots off the pace, hit his drive 333 yards at the par 5, He had 245 yards to the pin on the island green and put his approach 9 feet away for the eagle.
Harrington, who is making his debut in Phoenix, then proceeded to endear himself to the crowd at the 16th hole when the Irishman started kicking official Super Bowl footballs into the stands.
His caddy, who was serving as the holder for the first -- which was field goal style -- did his best Lucy imitation, pulling the football away when Charlie Brown, err, Harrington ran up to kick it.
Harrington did manage to put the second attempt in the grandstands, and he drop-kicked several more into the crowd. As the fans chanted "Ole, Ole, Ole," though, Harrington missed the 16-footer for birdie. He then converted from 4 feet for par to stay within three of Mickelson.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Hunter Mahan and Padraig Harrington are feeding off each other during the third round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Harrington just bounced back from his lone bogey of the day with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 13th. His seventh birdie has moved the Irishman into sole possession of second place at 14 under, five strokes behind Phil Mickelson.
Harrington is playing in the Waste Management Phoenix Open for the first time.
Mahan is among the group at 13 under along with Troy Mattesson, Brandt Snedeker, Bill Haas and Keegan Bradley. The 2010 Waste Management Phoenix Open champ has made five birdies -- and the last, which at the 13th hole, was particularly creative after he drove under a cactus branch and had to putt lefthanded back into the fairway left-handed, then holed a bunker shot.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Phil Mickelson quickly shook off that double bogey he made on the 18th hole Friday with a 20-footer for birdie on his first hole of the third round.
So Mickelson is now 18 under and owning a five-stroke lead but the rest of the leaderboard is quickly changing. Padraig Harrington is currently his nearest challenger after making the turn in 30 with five birdies on the front nine, including three straight to open the round.
Troy Matteson and Robert Garrigus, who lives about 25 minutes away from Scottsdale, both birdied the third and fourth holes to get into a big group at 12 under. Also at that number are Ryan Moore, Brandt Snedker, Keegan Bradley and Bill Haas, who three-putted from the fringe at the first hole.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Padraig Harrington had never teed it up in the Waste Management Phoenix Open before Thursday.
The Irishman wanted to come play at TPC Scottsdale, though, because he liked the niche the tournament had created for itself and the way it celebrated the fans. Harrington certainly gave the crowd something to cheer, too, as he made seven birdies on the way to a 64 that left him tied for second, four shots off the pace set by two-time champ Phil Mickelson.
"It's a nice score, obviously, 7 under par," Harrington said. "It's a little bit behind Phil but still a nice score in itself. I pretty much got the most out of the round for the first 15 holes and then had three chances the last three holes and didn't hole the putts. But overall I've got a good feeling about it."
Harrington may rue those three misses from inside 20 feet but considering he had never played the course before Monday, he couldn't be too disappointed. The three-time major champion hit 10 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens in regulation while using 25 putts.
"I know there's going to be a couple of errors here and there," he said. "Hopefully, as I said, I can keep making enough birdies to counteract that."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Padraig Harrington is the inveterate tinkerer. In fact, the Irishman says he would have given up golf a long time ago if he couldn't make changes to his game.
"The only thing I know is to keep evolving," Harrington explained.
The most recent offseason saw him consult a team of eye specialists because he lost confidence in his ability to read greens. Harrington started second-guess himself and become tentative, as a result.
The stats show perception was reality. He ranked 107th in strokes-gained putting on TOUR last year down from 46th in 2011, 47th in '10 and 25th in 2009.
So Harrington, who has had four laser surgeries, came to Arizona to make his 2013 PGA TOUR debut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open sporting glasses that he says have given him better than 20-20 vision. The tournament is the first of four straight for him.
"I'm perfectly fine in terms of what I can see," Harrington said.
"These make it better, but really I have astigmatism like a lot of
people. I grew up with a bias to reading putts right to left, so if I
saw an eight-foot putt that was straight, as a kid, I'd aim right half.
That's where I would see it.
"For the last number of years, if I saw that same eight-footer, I'd actually look at it left half. Now, that's just how my eyes have changed. I was used to it for 20 years of my life having a right-to-left bias, now I have a little bit of a left-to-right bias."
Hence, the glasses, two different pairs, in fact, which he says also help reduce eye fatigue. Harrington likely won't wear them in competition, although one pair did make it through his practice round on Tuesday at TPC Scottsdale.
Then Harrington, who says his eyes are likely too dry for contact lenses, went to the range and started hitting wedges. "I could have been sowing potatoes after a while in the divots I was taking," he said with a wry smile.
Harrington has also been doing various eye exercises. He's changed his putting routine, as well.
"It's kind of the way these days," he said. "You know, you're looking
for specialists in every area of the game, whether it's short game
specialists, putting, long game coach, psychology, everything is par for
the modern game, and this is just I suppose another little addition.
We'll wait and see how it goes.
"But certainly I didn't putt very well last year, and I needed to do something about it. So far, so good."