By Mark Lamport-Stokes
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Irish eyes were smiling for Padraig Harrington on Thursday after he broke par in the opening round of the Masters for only the third time in 13 starts at Augusta National.
The triple major winner, who has missed the cut in his last two appearances here, eagled the par-five second on the way to a one-under-par 71 on the rain-softened layout.
"I'm pleased," a smiling Harrington told reporters after also recording two birdies and three bogeys in the year's opening major. "There are very few players burning it up.
"Conditions are very good out there for scoring in terms of there's no wind, greens are soft. But I think they were aware of that and put in some tough pins today.
Harrington, whose best Masters finishes were ties for fifth in 2002 and 2008, was especially pleased with his putting on Augusta National's notoriously tricky greens with their subtle slopes and slick pace.
"I made a few changes this week, and I was very happy with what I saw out there today," the 40-year-old Irishman said of his putting. "Whether it continues like this for the next couple of days, I don't know.
"It looks like I turned a little bit of a corner with the putting and I've been playing very nicely besides that. I didn't play as well today, but hopefully over the next few days I'll put the two together."
Harrington, who has not triumphed anywhere since his golden 2008 campaign which featured victories at the British Open and PGA Championship, is renowned for continually tweaking his game.
However, the 14-times European Tour winner oozed confidence after his opening round on Thursday.
"I'm very relaxed," he said. "My whole game, I know it's good, and at the end of the day I'll just let it happen, play away and see what the result is."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)