Padraig Harrington is channeling inspirational Winged Foot memories for his first bid to win the US Senior Open.
Harrington is in familiar company this week as he has been drawn to play with Darren Clarke and Colin Montgomerie for the first two rounds at Saucon Valley Country Club’s Old Course in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
After a slow enough start to life on the PGA senior tour, the 50-year-old has had three runners-up finishes in his last five events.
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“I’m coming into these as the new kid on the block,” Harrington said.
“I’m in good shape, so I’m trying to manage my own expectations.
“It feels like how I would have been trying to manage my tournament preparation back in my heyday, where I’d be going into these events, not hoping to win, but strongly expecting to be in contention.”
Ronan Flood, his caddy and brother-in-law, lectured him about being grumpy in the build-up, which is how Harrington gets when trying to get organized for an event he feels he can win.
“You’re kind of trying to get everything perfect before it starts, but you can over-try, over-practice, try and get it too perfect,” the Dubliner told the USGA website.
“To win, sometimes you just have to let it happen.”
It is a lesson that he learned to magnificent effect at Winged Foot in the 2006 US Open.
Harrington – along with Montgomerie, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk – floundered over the final holes and Geoff Ogilvy won by a shot from that trio, with Harrington finishing a shot further back.
“I was playing the best golf of my life on Sunday, and I thought I needed three pars to win,” he recalled.
“When I bogeyed 16, I panicked, thinking I needed to birdie 17 or 18, and as it turned out, I didn’t. I three-putted 18, took three from 25 feet.
“But I didn’t see it as a negative. It was the first time I played in a major where I felt like I could have won
“Bob Rotella came up to me afterward to console me, and I told him, ‘No, no, this is the greatest day of my life, because now I realize I can win majors without help from someone else’.
“It brought a huge amount of confidence. At Winged Foot, it was all part of a plan and it went the way it should have gone, it wasn’t out of the blue.
“It was, ‘OK, let’s keep doing this and it will happen.’
Thirteen months later he was a major winner, claiming the Open Championship crown, then repeated the feat the following year before also winning the PGA championship.
He never did win a US Open, despite believing his best chance to be victorious would come in an event that tests resilience.
This week will be similar as he looks to succeed Furyk as the US Senior Open champion.
“I’m impressed, it’s a good setup,” said Harrington.
“Heavy rough and very fast, undulating greens. It’s very traditional, which you expect from the USGA.
“It’s exactly on point.”
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