Instead, he hit a tree.
And then he hit the same tree again.
When his debacle at the par-5 second hole ended with a quadruple-bogey 9, the Irishman was out of luck. Tiger Woods and Ben Hogan are the only players to win three different majors in succession, and its almost certain to stay that way.
Obviously, I didnt expect to take a 9 at the second, but it happens in golf, Harrington said. You have to put up with it.
Harrington made five birdies after that and scratched out a 1-over 73, but as he looked back at the large leaderboard behind the 18th green, he saw the leaders 10 shots ahead with no indication they would come back to him.
For him, the Masters was over.
I would think so, he said. I dont believe they will all come back to me.
Harrington defended his title in the British Open last summer at Royal Birkdale, then raised the stakes a month later with a 66-66 weekend at Oakland Hills to win the PGA Championship and become the first European to win back-to-back majors in the same season.
Suddenly, there was talk of a Paddy Slam, especially when he opened with a 69.
But it became clear on Friday that Harrington might not get the breaks so often required to win a major, with four putts that spun out of the cup, and a one-shot penalty when a gust blew his ball a few feet away after he addressed it.
But the real calamity came on the second hole.
After pulling his tee shot well left of the fairway, Harrington tried to hit a hybrid in front of the green. He hit a tree, and the ball caromed into the hazard. After taking a penalty drop, he hit the same tree again, the ball ricocheting into a ditch this time.
He normally thinks his way around the course really well, said Lee Westwood, a Ryder Cup teammate who played with him Saturday. Obviously, just tried to get a bit too much with his second shot to get off to a quick start, and it backfired on him.
Harrington played from the ditch toward the fairway, hit 5-iron to the front of the green, then chipped to 12 feet and took two putts.
I was annoyed I didnt chip and putt for an 8, he said.
Harrington is not one to consider what might have happened, only what did. So when someone suggested he might be in good shape for Sunday if not for that quadruple bogey, he wanted no part of the conversation.
Maybe I would have finished 4 under if I had turned a 9 into a 4, Harrington said. But there would be loads of guys in the tournament if they all said that.