Going into yesterday's third round at the 73rd Masters, Padraig Harrington admitted he could not afford to suffer any more bad luck if he was to win his third major championship in a row. But disaster struck the Irishman at only his second hole when he took nine strokes to play the par-five. The quadruple-bogey took Harrington from two under par, and planning a charge on the leaders, to two over par and facing the end of his streak in claiming golf's biggest prizes.
After a par at the opening hole, Harrington hooked his drive into the trees in a valley down the left-hand side of the second. It is an area with vivid spring colours this year but the one the Irishman had no wish to visit.
His attempted recovery hit a tree and dropped into a bush. He had to take a penalty drop but his next hit another tree and finished in the stream that also runs down the valley left of the fairway. Rather than take another penalty – he has suffered enough of those at Houston last week and already here – Harrington elected to play from the watery lie but could not make it back to the fairway. This he finally achieved with his sixth shot. He was on the green for seven and two-putted for the nine, holing a decent effort to avoid double digits.
This was the last thing Harrington wanted after he saw his putt on the 18th green horseshoe out on Friday night. The three-time major champion should have been better placed than two under par, after rounds of 70 and 72, but putts had refused to drop and there was also the penalty on the 15th green when a gust of wind blew his ball after he had addressed the putt. Harrington accepted the penalty as entirely fair – correct certainly, fair possibly not – and holed the putt for a par rather than for a birdie.
"It was one of those days when things didn't go right," Harrington said on Friday night. "I cannot take another day like that. Things have got to go right over the next couple of days." Two holes into the weekend and they had gone wrong again. He responded with three birdies in five holes to complete the front nine but gave two shots back at the 10th and 11th.
Again the Open and USPGA champion responded well with birdies at the 13th and 14th holes but a 73 left Harrington at one under par and too far back to contemplate a first Green Jacket. "Obviously my chances went with the nine," he said. "There is more a deflation now I have finished the round but I wasn't thinking about the three majors in a row on the course. If you did, things could get even worse. You have to got to focus and stick in there and I thought I did that well.
"There was less stress after the nine because you just have to go for everything. I had 34 holes left, plenty of birdie opportunities and I putted nicely. I wish I had putted like that the first two days.
"So be it. These things happen. There was a lot I did right this week but I was particularly disappointed with my chipping. I'll start getting my game ready for the US Open."
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