TURNBERRY, July 17 – Defending champion Padraig Harrington is hopeful Thursday’s opening round of 69 will be the first step in rebuilding his shattered confidence.The 37-year-old Irishman is aiming to equal Australian Peter Thomson’s 53-year-old exploit of three straight Open Championship titles but arrived at Turnberry low on confidence.
He had missed his last five cuts on the European Tour but showed signs that he is finding a winning formula with a polished performance.
His round wasn’t spectacular but Harrington admits he is taking small, baby steps on the road to recovery.
"I would have taken that score before the start of the round," he said.
"I would say I hit the ball well but played with a lot of trepidation. I wasn’t exactly the most confident after the last few weeks.
"I hit a lot of nice shots into the middle of the green but didn’t really have the confidence to chase the pins.
"I also got up and down when I needed to, so there is certainly something to build on. I wasn’t shooting the lights out but it gives me hope for the next three days.
"The whole idea was to try and build things every day and then get better in terms of my confidence. I struck the ball well all day so it looks pretty good. I felt like I was swinging fairly well."
Harrington’s poor form has been attributed to the swing changes he has introduced following his Open win at Royal Birkdale last year.
But if anyone will graft to find a solution it is the hard-working Dubliner. And he hopes that the extra hours spent on the practice ground on the eve of the tournament will bear fruit.
"I changed some things on Monday on the range," he said.
"I could feel it in my swing today and most of the times today I trusted it. I just need to be a bit more confidence and believe in it.
"For most of the round I did that. I wasn’t thinking of the score I was going to shoot, I was just playing each shot at a time.
"It would have been nice to hole a 20 footer on the way in. But there is an awful lot of golf to be played and I just hope to be there or thereabouts with nine holes to play. And we know anything can happen then."
Not surprisingly, he looked nervous in the opening stages but scrambled for pars on the second and third.
He took heart from that and a birdie three at five was then followed by 10 straight pars before his fragile swing reared its ugly head again on the 16th.
Sitting perfectly in the middle of the fairway, he pulled his six-iron way left and ended up with a bogey.
But a searing three-wood into the 17th green set up an immediate birdie four to leave Harrington with plenty of positives after a wretched run.