SOUTHPORT, England -- Nursing an injured right wrist, Padraig Harrington woke up Thursday wondering whether it might be too painful to swing a golf club, let alone make a strong defense of his British Open title.
When he walked off the 18th green after surviving the battering wind and rain at Royal Birkdale, the Irishman was convinced that even a bogey-bogey finish for a 4-over 74 in the opening round put him in contention again.
The finish tainted it a bit, but I have to focus on the positives, Harrington said. There are 54 holes to go and the wrist should get better.
Harrington won his first major a year ago by beating Sergio Garcia in a playoff at Carnoustie. He hasnt won a tournament since, but had been optimistic he could repeat before hurting his wrist in a practice round on Saturday.
I was getting up this morning not knowing what swinging a golf club could be like, he said. I was convinced, though, that if there was only a small or reasonable amount of pain, I couldnt do any more damage, that I was going to try and figure a way of playing and ignoring it. I was convinced I was going to give it a go anyway.
I had about three or four shots on the range when it twinged. I had taken some anti-inflammatories and painkillers and I expected to have a few more twinges on the golf course.
Harrington knew he needed to stay out of the long, snagging, rain-soaked rough that has made an already demanding links course even more difficult.
Then he found it with his first tee shot, a 3-iron that sailed out to the right.
I was apprehensive about hitting out of the rough and thats what I managed to do in the first four of five holes, said Harrington, who was 2-over after four.
He responded with 5-foot birdie putt at the 346-yard fifth and, with little additional pain coming from the wrist, Harringtons confidence began to build.
You do need to have the odd thing going in your favor, he said. I hit it really close to make birdie. Plenty of guys hit good shots today and theyve gone 10 yards past or 10 yards short and they wont make birdie off that.
He managed to get to the turn at 1-over, before bogeying the par-4 11th and dropping shots at the last two holes after again finding the rough.
At least the gusting wind and driving rain took his mind off the injured wrist.
The tougher weather helped in that sense that, as bad it was out there, you could only focus on your next shot, getting your grip dry, he said. There was very little time to be distracted out there and that was a good thing for my wrist.
Despite the conditions, Harrington said he would gladly go through the round again.
That round of golf is like playing two or three rounds of golf. But I definitely wouldnt mind another go at that round, he said. If you guys told me we all had to tee it up again tomorrow in the same conditions, Id look forward to that test. But maybe not another three of them.