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August 23 2012

5:11 PM

Harrington shifts into birdie mode

Harrington birdies 17th

Padraig Harrington rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-3 17th during Thursday's first round of The Barclays.


By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Given that the Bethpage State Park Black Course has hosted two U.S. Opens, Padraig Harrington started Thursday's first round of The Barclays taking a U.S. Open approach of just being content with par.

Then playing partner Troy Matteson made an eagle on the fourth hole.

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Harrington
"Wow, an eagle," Harrington noted later. "Imagine making an eagle at a U.S. Open."

So the Irishman, who entered this week ranked 62nd in FedExCup points, stepped on the gas -- and didn't stop until he finished with a 7-under 64 that included a sizzling 29 on the back nine.

Not only did the 64 put him atop the early leaderboard, it was also his best round of the year since he shot 61 in the first round of the Transitions Championship in mid-March.

All because he changed his approach early on: Don't settle for pars.

"You have to get out of that mindset because level par isn't winning the tournament this week," Harrington said. "It isn't a U.S. Open. It isn't going to be like that.

"It's a big, strong golf course, but it's set up nicely. You have to get into the mindset that you've got to make some birdies."

To do that, Harrington needed his putter, a problem club this year, to heat up. It did, as he made five putts from outside 10 feet, including a 25-foot birdie putt at the par-5 fourth and a 21-1/2-footer at the par-3 14th.

"I've been playing well for quite a while," said Harrington, who won The Barclays at Westchester in 2005 and tied for second at Liberty National in 2009. "But this is the best I've putted."

If he can keep it up, he might just do enough to earn a captain's pick from European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal. No Ryder Cup points are given to European players at this event, which means Harrington will not receive an automatic selection.

"I don't want to go in there and try too desperately to beg for a pick, or I don't want to go in there and give excuses for anything," Harrington said. "I'll just leave it be what it is.  I'm just going to play golf."

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