Harrington rues loss of confidence in build-up to US Open

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The Independent Online

Making the short journey from Westchester, just outside New York, to the eastern end of Long Island for this week's US Open at Shinnecock Hills, was a happy experience for Sergio Garcia after his victory in the Buick Classic on Sunday. It was not such a jolly journey for Padraig Harrington, though, despite making it into a play-off.

Making the short journey from Westchester, just outside New York, to the eastern end of Long Island for this week's US Open at Shinnecock Hills, was a happy experience for Sergio Garcia after his victory in the Buick Classic on Sunday. It was not such a jolly journey for Padraig Harrington, though, despite making it into a play-off.

"I played terribly all week," the Irishman said. "I didn't know where the ball was going next. It was a case of knuckling down, being aggressive and trying to make as many birdies as possible.

"In many ways, the week before the US Open, it would have been better to saunter along somewhere in the middle of the field knowing I had confidence in my swing. I don't have any confidence in my swing at the moment." Harrington chipped in at the 18th to tie with Garcia and the South African Rory Sabbatini at 12 under par. The Dubliner then had a chance from 10 feet to win at the first extra hole of the play-off but his putt dribbled across the right hand side of the hole.

It was a costly miss. He was eliminated on the second play-off hole before Garcia holed from seven feet to see off Sabbatini at the next. It was Garcia's second victory at the Buick and his second in a month after remodelling his swing last season. "I just want to keep doing what I'm doing and hope the momentum keeps going next week," the 24-year-old Spaniard said. "I just want to give myself a chance on the back nine on Sunday. I know it is a matter of time before I can put it all together in a major."

Vijay Singh, Fred Couples and Tom Byrum tied for fourth place two strokes outside the play-off with Britain's Luke Donald, seventh, and Fredrik Jacobson a further shot back.

Although Harrington's 23rd runners-up finish denied him a first official victory in the States, Garcia's win put him second on the world points list of the European Ryder Cup rankings and well placed to secure a spot for Oakland Hills in September. Last time, he was only picked after being given a wild card.

Hal Sutton, the US Ryder Cup captain, was relieved that America won the Curtis Cup at Formby to prevent a clean sweep by Europe, Great Britain and Ireland. "Let's hope we can keep the winning streak going in September," he said.

* Sweden's Annika Sorenstam claimed her seventh major title by defending the LPGA Championship in Wilmington, Delaware, on Sunday, cruising to a three-stroke victory with a four-round 13-under-par 271 total. South Korea's Ahn Shi Hyun was second, two shots ahead of her compatriot, Grace Park.

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