By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO -- If you're looking for Padraig Harrington on Thursday afternoon, check out the practice green at The Olympic Club.
Two four-putts and a three-putt will certainly send a man searching for answers. Without them, Harrington, a three-time major champion, would be right in the hunt. Instead, he had to settle for a 74 that left him eight strokes off the pace set by Michael Thompson.
"I had two four-putts and a three-putt, two stubbed chips from the edge of the green," Harrington said. "That's a lot of shots. I don't think, I can't remember ever having a four-putt and I had two of them today."
While he was frustrated by his putting -- Harrington used 31 strokes on the green -- he really liked the test presented by The Olympic Club. Harrington, who ranks 127th in strokes-gained putting on TOUR this year, made three birdies, three bogeys and two double bogeys.
"The course is super," the Irishman said. "Brilliant. Actually, not difficult either. It's nicely setup. Very playable. ... It's ideal. It just goes to show what the firm greens scare the life out of professional golfers. So it's excellent."
Figuring out the wind has been one of the biggest challenges for the players in Thursday’s round.
Padraig Harrington said he and one of his playing partners, Rory McIlroy, completely misjudged the wind at the par-3 eighth, as both players found the bunker guarding the front of the green.
“We all got the wind wrong,” said Harrington, who shot a 2-under 68, same as McIlroy. “We thought it was downwind and it was clearly into the wind. Rory was 20 yards short of the pin; I was 15 years short. We were well out of what we were thinking.
“I think everybody today was obviously experiencing that.”
Harrington said the wind that was whistling through the trees was not always an accurate reflection of the winds at ground level, one of the reasons Harrington said he had trouble committing to their wedges.
Chad Campbell, who also shot a 68, noted that the winds were coming from the north. “We’re used to playing the course with the opposite wind,” Campbell said. Which is appropriate, considering the course’s name is TPC Southwind.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- As historic as Louis Oosthuizen’s double eagle was during the final round of the Masters, the shot everyone was still talking about Tuesday at the RBC Heritage was Bubba Watson’s escape from the woods on the second hole of sudden death, the par-4 10th at Augusta National.
“Yeah,” Boo Weekley said with emphasis when asked if Watson was in some strange way better off being in the trees than in the fairway. “Where we grew up, at Tanglewood, we had to learn that shot because the trees are real tight. If there’s anybody out there that’s gonna do it, he’s gonna do it every time.”
Weekley and Watson went to the same high school in Milton (Fla.) in the Florida panhandle.
The shot Watson hit Sunday was a wedge off the pine straw, under a tree then over them from 164 yards. It hooked about 40 yards to set up a two-putt par for the win.
It’s the kind of shot that fellow Scottsdale, Ariz., resident Aaron Baddeley, who came out to watch it, has seen dozens of times from Watson.
“When he gets in a spot in the trees it definitely makes him focus,” Baddeley said. “He can hit a 40-yard fade or 60-yard draw because he does it all the time. He can move the ball so far. He can hit a 50-yard fade off the tee because he can hit it 320. If I hit a 50-yard fade, it will go 260. That’s his go-to shot.”
That go-to shot gave Watson his first career major and fourth win in the last two years.
Bill Haas thinks it’s more than Watson’s length that has paid off.
“The rest of his game is a lot better than he got credit for,” Haas said. “I give him the credit now. He’s really good.”
Haas’ younger brother and caddie Jay Jr. said that Watson moves the ball more than any other player in the game.
“He’s entertaining to watch,” Bill added. “Even for us players.”
The tee times for the first round of this week’s RBC Heritage have been released. CLICK HERE for the tee times. Use the space below to comment about the pairings at Harbour Town.
Here’s a look at some of the notable groups in the first two rounds:
Luke Donald/Kyle Stanley/Brandt Snedeker
All three players have won on the PGA TOUR this year, but the real story is the Donald/Snedeker rematch from last year's playoff at Harbour Town. Or it is the Snedeker/Stanley rematch from this year's playoff at Torrey Pines?
Bill Haas/Ernie Els/Padraig Harrington
Haas, the reigning FedExCup champion, is paired with two international superstars in the midst of career comebacks. Harrington has two top-10s in six starts this year, while Els has three top-fives in his last four starts.
Webb Simpson/Zach Johnson/Bud Cauley
This group almost spans three different generations. Cauley, a 22-year-old rookie, was one of the hottest players on TOUR before the Masters. However, rookies almost never do well at Harbour Town. Simpson, 26, has been under the radar after an epochal 2011, and still has three top-10s already in 2012.
John Daly/Rickie Fowler/Ricky Barnes
With Daly's pants and Fowler's hats, there will be lots of colorful clothes in this group. Barnes nearly won here last year before fading into a tie for fourth. Fowler has two starts here, one of them a tie for eighth in his first try in 2010.
Lucas Glover/Matt Kuchar/Geoff Ogilvy
Glover and Kuchar, a pair of Sea Island, Ga. residents, consider Harbour Town a local event. They will be paired with Ogilvy, who added Harbour Town to his schedule for the first time since 2007.
Now, it’s your turn: Which groups are you most interested in following this week?
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Padraig Harrington enters Sunday's final round of the Masters with the opportunity to win his first PGA TOUR event since claiming the last of his three majors at the 2008 PGA Championship. The drought has been lengthy, in part because Harrington was working some swing changes to prevent his game from becoming stagnant.
"I don't need to go out there and prove anything tomorrow," Harrington said after a third-round 68 put him in the hunt. "I'm in a great position in that sense. I've won three majors. I'm going to win more majors, so I don't have to do it tomorrow."
Many of the other players on the leaderboard will be seeking their first major win, including tournament leader Peter Hanson, as well as other notables such as Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson, Matt Kuchar, Lee Westwood and Hunter Mahan.
"There are players out there who have not won a major who feel like, I have to take this chance because they have not come around," Harrington said. "Having won three, I realize that they do actually come around and they will come around. And I don't need to panic tomorrow."
If Harrington can play like he did on the back nine Saturday -- when he poured in four consecutive birdies starting at the par-5 13th, then finished off his round with another birdie at the 18th to tie for his lowest score at Augusta National -- then he just might make enough noise to win that fourth major. This is the fifth time in his Masters career that he’s entered the final round inside the top 10 on the leaderboard, but he’s never finished better than a tie for fifth.
"I like what I see in my game," Harrington said. "I think it's going forward big-time at the moment."
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Padraig Harrington and Jonathan Byrd were declared co-winners of Wednesday's abbreviated Par 3 Contest, which was halted late in the day to inclement weather.
Does that mean we should cross them off the list of contenders for this week's Masters title?
No player who has won the Par 3 Contest has gone on to win the Masters in the same week. Last year’s winner, Luke Donald, opted not to defend his title this year so he could concentrate on winning the main event.
But Byrd said he wasn't worried about the jinx as he stood over his birdie putt at the final hole at the ninth. He rolled in the putt just before the sirens sounded to suspend play. That moved him to 5 under, tying Harrington atop the leaderboard.
"I like making putts, whatever they are for," Byrd said.
Harrington, meanwhile, is used to winning the Par 3 Contest. In 2003, he shared the honors with David Toms and in 2004, he won outright. This year and 2003 are the only times in the history of the Par 3 Contest that dual winners have been declared.
Harrington, playing the Par 3 Contest for the 13th time in his career, said he didn't do anything special this time.
"I didn't hole out. I didn't hit anything stone dead or anything like that," the Irishman said. "Actually pretty average shots and played nicely for nine holes."
Adam Scott also reached 5 under at one point during his round but fell back to 4 under and in a tie for third with Webb Simpson and Jerry Pate. The latter two were still on the course when play was halted.
Two holes-in-one were made – by Mark Wilson at the fourth hole and Thomas Bjorn at the ninth. Since the inaugural Par 3 Contest in 1960, 75 holes-in-one have been recorded.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- When Padraig Harrington followed his course-record 61 with a 73 on Friday, it was hardly the first time a player had gone low in one round only to shoot something average or even struggle the next.
Harrington’s 61 was the fifth 61 on the PGA TOUR this season alone. But as we’ve seen each time, it’s hard to back up a round like that.
Here’s a look at how the other four players performed in the round following their 61:
|Ryan Moore||Humana Challenge||61 (Round 2), 75 (Round 3)|
|Robert Garrigus||Humana Challenge||61 (Round 3), 68 (Round 4)|
|Charlie Wi||AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am||61 (Round 1), 69 (Round 2)|
|Brian Harman||The Honda Classic||61 (Round 2), 69 (Round 3)|
The bigger problem for Harrington might be that he hasn’t been very good on the weekend this season. He ranks 154th in third-round scoring average at 72.67 and 156th in final-round scoring average at 73.