By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
This week marks a couple of firsts for Padraig Harrington.
It’s the first time he’s playing in the Reno-Tahoe Open, and it’s the first time he’ll be playing using the Modified Stableford scoring system .
At 62nd in the Official World Golf Ranking, it’s also the first time Harrington has failed to qualify for the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational (also this week).
Harrington hasn’t won on the PGA TOUR since 2008. During that time he hasn’t contended much, either -- though this season he does have as many top 10s as he had all of last year with three.
But that’s not the only reason he is in Nevada. Harington prefers to play the week before a major championship.
“If I was to practice at home I would get all mixed up,” Harrington said Wednesday. “I just wouldn't be competitive for next week if I didn't play this week.”
The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C., will play host to the year’s final major, the PGA Championship, next week.
”I want to be competitive,” Harrington said. “When you hit a lot of shots you're breaking down some of your competitive instinct; whereas on the golf course you've got one chance, card in your hand, and you've got to get your mind in the right place.”
Wrapping his head around the Modified Stableford scoring system might be tougher.
Harrington has never played using the format that awards points for birdies and eagles -- and subtracts points for bogeys and double bogeys.
“It's a little bit like changing from stroke play to match play,” Harrington said. “You've got to be that bit more aggressive. The difference between going from, say, a par to a birdie is two points effectively, and the difference between going from par to a bogey is effectively one point. So it's nearly like a shot and a half a shot. Missing birdie putts is a lot worse than missing par putts this week.
“It's an interesting way. Normally they all count the same at the end of the week.”
To get himself in that mindset, Harrington played a couple of nine-hole practice rounds and kept score using the Modified Stableford system.
No matter the system, though, it’s most important to just play, Harrington feels.
“I know it's a little awkward coming three hours time difference from where we're going to play the PGA next week, but saying that I would rather be competitive,” he said. “Reno gives me that opportunity. The key for me is getting my head in the right place, getting my routines right, getting my processes right.”