At Avenel, Harrington ponders being tripped up by Winged Foot

Golf

June 21, 2006|By DON MARKUS | DON MARKUS,SUN REPORTER

Potomac -- Padraig Harrington hopes the feeling returns by tomorrow, by the time he tees it up for real at the Booz Allen Classic. When he played a practice round yesterday at the Tournament Players Club at Avenel, his mind was still at Winged Foot, replaying the final round of the recently completed U.S. Open.

Specifically, Harrington was still thinking about the last three holes, all of them resulting in bogeys, taking the 34-year-old Irishman from a shot behind Phil Mickelson to two behind the eventual and unlikely champion, Geoff Ogilvy of Australia. Harrington finished fifth.

"Normally it wouldn't be that tough to play the week after the Open," Harrington said. "It is very tough when you're in contention right to the end. The minute the following week starts, you get new energy. Not so easy to do this week. I don't think I've ever been as tired, as deflated from an event ever in my life."

Harrington is one of the few bigger names left in an already depleted field. Sergio Garcia of Spain, who won the tournament when it was played at nearby Congressional Country Club last year, withdrew Monday because of a recurring back injury, as did Chris DiMarco.

Another former champion, Adam Scott of Australia, pulled out a couple of weeks ago.

Asked if he thought of doing the same after what transpired at the Open, Harrington said: "I definitely did consider pulling out. I'm exhausted. I didn't realize that was going to happen when I set the schedule. Afterwards, I definitely would have liked nothing better than to be on a plane home, just chilling out. I hope it's the right decision."

Harrington is certainly not the only player here with an Open hangover, but he is the most prominent. He is the highest ranked player in the world (No. 23) in the field, and admits that he feels a little more pressure than normal because he is considered one of the pre-tournament favorites.

"It's nearly easier to win an event when there's bigger names in it and you've got no focus, no attention on you, you're just playing along," Harrington said. "It doesn't matter where you are in the world, if you play good golf that week, you're the best player. Less hype means you can deflect some of that pressure and just keep playing."

Jerry Kelly is coming into this week's tournament from a different mind-set. Initially, Kelly was supposed to take this week off. But after missing the cut at the Barclays Classic two weeks ago, and failing to qualify for the Open for the first time since 2001, Kelly called a tour staff member Friday afternoon to commit to Booz Allen.

"I saw my coach on Wednesday and Thursday and he fixed me in about 12 seconds, I was playing too much and my mental side got bad and my swing got bad," Kelly said in the locker room yesterday. "Once my swing got good when I got back home, I knew I'd be itching [to play]. Watching two tournaments on TV, that's enough for me. I need to get back out here and put my name up there."

Harrington would like to see his name on the leader board again this week, as it was for most of the Open. He isn't sure he can be mentally sharper than he was at Winged Foot, except for a disastrous triple bogey on the 18th hole Saturday and the three late bogeys Sunday.

"I've got to say, I find it very hard to look forward to this tournament," Harrington said. "I'm spending most of my time looking back at the last tournament. It shows the difference between a U.S. Open and a regular week ... "

One thing Harrington is not doing is feeling sorry for Phil Mickelson or Colin Montgomerie of Scotland, his former Ryder Cup teammate. Each double-bogeyed the final hole to lose his own chance at victory at the Open.

"I don't take comfort from anybody else's pain," Harrington said. "I've got my own pain to worry about."

And starting tomorrow, another tournament to play, ready or not.

don.markus@baltsun.com

Booz Allen Classic

When --Tomorrow-Sunday

Where --TPC at Avenel, Potomac

Directions from Baltimore --Take I-95 south to I-495 west toward Silver Spring. Take Exit 39 toward Potomac and turn left onto Bradley Boulevard. Continue on Oaklyn Drive and follow signs for parking.

Tickets --Daily starting at $40, weeklong starting at $150

Information -- boozallenclassic.com or 301-469-3737

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