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20 June 2012

Padraig Harrington's 2012 US Open Championship Review

US Open Championship - Review
The second major of the year is over and it was a case of so near but yet so far!  I finished in a tie for fourth, my best finish of the year so far, but I am coming away from San Francisco knowing that I could so easily have got to the winning score.  I finished on three over par, two shots behind the winner, Webb Simpson.  The majors are all the same in that you have to stay patient and keep plodding along, because then you will invariably get a chance at some stage.  For me I made it hard on myself by opening with a four over par 74.  I knew that I had to knuckle down and grind out a few scores.  Four over is never a bad score on a US Open course but if you are trying to win you know that you can't afford any more poor rounds if you open up with a round like this.

My first round score was extremely disappointing as I played very nicely; it was actually my short game that let me down.  I had two four putts, a three putt and duffed two chip shots - to end up shooting four over after all this was actually pretty good.  When I finished my first round I was quite annoyed, as I knew that I had let a good chance go to shoot a decent opening round, meaning that I was then under pressure for the rest of the week.  The funny thing about my opening score is that I knew I wasn't out of the tournament but I also knew that I couldn't afford many more mistakes or I would end up missing the cut.  In the US Open and indeed any major it is a fine line between contending and actually going home on Friday after missing the cut. 

On Friday I played well again and shot level par - I was very happy with the score and how I played.  I gave myself a lot of chances for birdies but only made a few, but that said I held a few good putts for pars too.  The main thing was that I got myself right back into the tournament.  I would have liked to have shot a couple of shots lower but then no matter what score you shoot you always want a couple more.  Saturday was a slightly disappointing day for me as I shot one over par when I really felt that I should have broken par.  I played well again but when it came down to it I just didn't hit my wedges close enough.  I finished with a 71, which put me on five over par and six behind.  The most disappointing thing about my round was that there were a lot of people between the leaders and me.  I thought when I finished that I would be around 10th but I was actually 18th at the end of the day.

Going out on Sunday I was six behind and I knew that I had to shoot a good score to have any chance.  The problem with The Olympic Club is that the opening holes are very tough.  Par on these holes is a good return and so when you are chasing birdies it is tough.  I made two bogeys in the first six holes, the 2nd and the 6th - at this stage I was well out of contention but three birdies in a row from the 7th got me to four over and moving in the right direction.  I missed chances on the 10th, 11th and 12th but then I got a great break on the 13th - I pulled my tee shot left but thankfully it stayed out of the hazard (only by inches).  I hit a good chip from below the level of the green; I knew it was going to be close but when the crowd went mad I knew it had gone in.  Another birdie on the 17th meant that I was two over par playing the last.  I was in the middle of the fairway and felt that I needed to be at least one more shot better and so I had to make a birdie.  I went straight at the pin with a gap wedge and I pulled it a fraction; unfortunately, as I was going straight at it it meant that I ended up in the bunker left.  Had I been playing to the middle of the green I would have been fine.  My ball plugged and I wasn't able to get it up and down which meant that I finished on three over par, one behind the clubhouse leader.  When I tapped in I had no regrets.  I was trying to make a birdie to give myself a chance of winning the tournament; had I been trying to get a good finish then I would have played to the middle of the green.  I must admit that I was very happy to see Webb finish on one over par as had two over played off I would have been devastated.  In the end I finished in a tie for fourth, a good week but not what I came here for. 

Looking back on the week it is only hammered home to me that the most important thing at a major is your short game.  It all comes down to wedges, chipping, putting and bunker play.  I am leaving knowing that I left a lot of shots behind me.  I really felt that the course was very playable - it was important to hit the fairways but when you did it felt like you could make a birdie.  I have to say that the USGA did a fantastic job in setting up the course and because of it they got a great tournament.

I played here in 1998 and when I left I knew that I couldn't have improved my position by one shot - I had maxed out my score. This time round I am leaving knowing that I left a lot shots behind me and I feel that I have come along way since 1998!

It was great to be coming down the last few holes in contention; unfortunately it didn't work out this time.  I have a lot of positives to take from this week and I can't wait for the Open Championship to come around.  But for now I am heading to Hartford for the Travelers Championship.

US Open Championship
Fantastic final round of two under par 68 sees Padraig just fail to join Phil Mickelson as the second highest playing major winner. On a course that lived up to it's reputation, it was obvious that whoever got to the clubhouse first with a challenging target score would probably win, and so it proved. Padraig got off to a slow start with two bogies in his first six holes but then showed all the resolve of past Major wins as he covered the next eleven holes in a remarkable five under par, the highlight being a chip in birdie two on the par three 13th hole. Needing a birdie at the last to join the eventual winner, Webb Simpson in a play off, he chased a brutal pin which yielded only three birdies all day from the 70 man field and payed the price with a bogey five. Simpsons one over par winning total meant that no player matched par for the championship and Padraig will rue two four putts earlier in the week in his three over par finishing score! This is the second straight Major that Padraig has entered the back nine with a chance and he looks to be back to the force of old! He now returns to Europe for the Scottish and Irish Opens in preparation for a tilt at a third Open title.

Padraig continued his fine play in Major Championships this year with a solid one over par 71. His five over par total leaves him a tie for 18th place going into the final round and only six behind the leaders. Fifteen pars were recorded on a day where the pins were best described as challenging, his lone birdie came at the par three 13th hole. He will need sub 60 round tonight to post a total that just might hold on! He tees off at 1.40pm local time with Hunter Hamrick.

Fine second round of level par 70 leaves Padraig right in the mix for the seasons second Major. His four over par half way total is just five behind the leaders and was one of the best rounds of the day. He again played well but holed a few more putts and will be hoping for more of the same over the weekend. His card was made up of four bogies and four birdies and the absence of double bogies will be crucial if he is to contend for his forth major. The course is playing hard and fast so it will be a case of last man standing come Sunday as the USGA have set up a very stern test. Padraig tees off Saturday at 1.05pm local time with Alistair Presnell.

Opening round of four over par 74 leaves Padraig close to the projected cut line going into Fridays second round at the Olympic Club. Starting on the 9th hole, he played some lovely golf but two four putts and a three putt did the damage as he failed to hole the vital putts needed to keep a round going on such a difficult golf course. His second last hole, the short par four 7th proved costly as he hit a wonderful tee shot onto the green but inexplicably putted back off the heavily sloping green. He will need something around level par to make the cut but is hitting the ball well. He tees off late Friday at 1.40pm local time (+8GMT) with Davis Love and David Toms. Four under par leads the tournament.

US Open - Preview
The second major of the year has arrived and I am in San Francisco for the US Open.  We are playing the Olympic Club, where the US Open was held in 1998 - I remember playing in it and finding it extremely tough.  I made the cut and finished in the middle of the field but I had to chip and putt very well for that.  When I looked back on the week there was nowhere I could have made up a shot with my short game.  The only way I could have improved my score was by playing better from tee to green.  After playing here in 1998 I came away knowing that I had to improve my game to improve as a player.

San Francisco is almost like a home venue for me as I have a lot of friends here and there is a huge Irish community.  I come through here most years before the AT&T at Pebble Beach so I have got to know a lot of people here.  When we arrived on Sunday evening we went straight to Johnny Foleys Irish Bar and Restaurant for dinner - good friends of ours own it so we got the Royal treatment.  It is kind of like my unofficial clubhouse for the week. I have played 36 holes in practice this week - eight holes on Monday, eighteen on Tuesday and then ten on Wednesday.  The reason for the eight and ten holes is that this week we are starting on the ninth rather than the tenth as normal.  It's a little strange but it doesn't really matter.  Since I played here in 1998 they have changed all the greens from poanna to bent grass.  They haven't really changed the design of them just the grass - I have to say they did a great job.  The golf course itself hasn't changed much, a few new tees but nothing too major. The main difference is in the set up; in '98 it was all about heavy rough whereas this year there are a lot of run offs around the greens.  The run offs make it much harder than the rough as you have to be a good chipper whereas with heavy rough anyone can chip from it.  Also the rough off the fairways is not as bad, which has been changing over the last few years - there is definitely a sense from the USGA that they want to see us hit fairways but if we miss they want us to be able have a chance of getting to the green.  I think the way they set the courses up now for this major is brilliant.  One of the hardest things about this course is that nearly every fairway is heavily sloped, so it can be hard to keep your ball on them.

I came here happy with how I was playing but after a while on the range I found myself hitting some hooks.  However, I figured out that this was down to the way the range is - there is a strong right to left slope together with a strong right to left wind.  It makes you want to push the ball out to the right and then turn it over with the hands to make up for it.  The good news is that I realized this, but it took me a while.  On Tuesday I had Pete Cowen have a look to make sure everything was Ok.  He was happy with what he saw which made me feel better about it.  I just have to get myself to stay away from the range.

I have spent a good bit of time working with Bob Rotella this week, which is exactly what I needed as last week in the final round I felt my routines were poor.  We have talked a lot about what I am doing and what I need to do so as to get into my target.

I really like the course and what they have done to it since we were here in '98.  I feel that it is very playable the way they have it set up; you have to hit good shots but you feel if you do you can make some birdies.  Having said that though poor shots will get punished.  The greens are small and firm which makes it difficult especially for chipping. 

The US Open is always a long week and because of this the most important thing is to take it easy and not wear yourself out.  It is very much a marathon and the main thing is to be in with a shout when it comes to the final nine holes.  I am here to win my fourth major and to do this I know that I need to be patient and let it happen.

Talk soon,
Padraig

Article originally from padraigharrington.com. Article used with permission. June 2012


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