Padraig Harrington upstaged Rory McIlroy in Texas a week ahead of the Masters – but the Ulsterman is still dreaming of that green jacket.

Harrington finished the opening round of the Valero Texas Open tied for second place on four under par, just a shot behind leaders Matt Bettencourt and Peter Tomasulo.

McIlroy’s erratic form of late continued with a level par 72 in a tournament he only entered at the last minute to fine tune his preparations for the Masters which begins at Augusta next Thursday.

And Georgia was clearly on McIlroy’s mind when he spoke to the Press Association after that opening round as he continues to adapt to his new Nike clubs.

World number two McIlroy said: “The green jacket would mean everything. I’m halfway to the career Grand Slam and that’s one of the pieces of the puzzle.

“The Open Championship is the other. That’s a big goal for me - to try to win more major championships. I feel like I’m at a stage now where, sure I want to win other tournaments, but the majors are the focus.”

McIlroy insists his focus is on the four majors this year despite changing his schedule to include Texas in a bid to find consistency.

He added: “I don’t care if I miss 10 cuts in a row if I win a major a year. That’s what it’s all about - winning the big tournaments.

“Of course, it’s not going to be great for your confidence going into those majors if you’re missing 10 cuts in a row, but when people look back on a person’s career, you don’t say ‘Jack Nicklaus was so consistent’.

“You could say he finished 19 times second in a major. But what you think about is the 18 majors he won. That’s what people remember. People remember the wins.

“They don’t remember that I shot 65 at Doral to finish eighth. They remember the wins and they remember the high points. It’s only a minority that will remember the low points and will get on you for that.

“I remember last year, my five wins, my second major championship, the Ryder Cup, winning player of the year. I don’t remember missing four or five cuts or whatever it was in the middle of the season. I mean, I remember, but that’s not what I think about. I think about the high points.”

The level par 72 was a reasonable start to his Texas bid according to McIlroy.

He added: “I’m relatively pleased with the way I played. It could have been a little better, but it could have been a little worse too.”

Dubliner Harrington, a three time major winner, bogeyed the 18th as he set the early clubhouse lead on four under.

Harrington said: “I’m not walking away from this round thinking ‘Wow, I hit a number of pure golf shots’, or anything like that. It was more mental fortitude than ball striking.”


Rory McIlroyGetty