Friday 19 December 2014

Harrington fails to shine on old stomping ground

William S Callahan

Published 14/03/2014 | 02:30

Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington
Michael Hoey plays a shot during the first round of the Hassan Trophy

Hopes that a return to Copperhead, where he holds the course record of 61, might spark a renaissance for Padraig Harrington were quickly vanquished as the Dubliner stumbled to an ugly first-round 75 at the Valspar Championship.

Omens had been good for Harrington as he made six birdies in the pre-tournament pro-am on this demanding, tree-lined course at the Innisbrook Resort, not far from Tampa on Florida's gulf coast. But his putter got frostbite yesterday. He had to wait until his 17th hole, the eighth, for his first birdie of the day, which came courtesy of a fabulous 14-yard pitch-in from the left trap.

His broad grin would soon be replaced by a grimace as Harrington failed to get up-and-down from the greenside rough at nine and slumped to his fifth bogey. He had 33-putts yesterday, including a three-putt at seven.

DIFFERENT

How different from Harrington's first-round 61 here in 2012, when he'd 10 birdies on a faultless card.

Sadly, as he trailed early clubhouse leaders Matt Every and Pat Perez by seven after fine 68s by the Americans in uncharacteristically cold and blustery conditions yesterday morning, the 42-year-old Irishman was in danger of missing his fifth cut in six events.

Yet Darren Clarke wound the clock back with his impressive early play at the Copperhead, even briefly joining the lead on three-under through 10, where he holed deftly from 19 feet for his fourth birdie of the day.

But ultimately he finished with a level par 71, a double bogey six on the 12th and another dropped shot at 18 ruining his front-nine efforts.

Fully recovered from the chest muscle injury which sidelined him in recent weeks, Clarke (45) certainly appeared to have resolved timing issues with his swing caused by the 2011 Open champion's new, super-svelte body shape.

However, it was Clarke's short game and confident performance on the greens that augur well for the future.

Michael Hoey revived his hopes at the Trophee Hassan II with a thrilling rally down the stretch at the exclusive Golf du Palais Royale in Agadir, Morocco.

Hoey trailed leader Alejandro Canizares by six overnight after a sensational 10-under-par 62 by the Spaniard.

It might have been worse for Ulster's 2012 Hassan Trophy winner had he not gone birdie-eagle at 16 and 17 for a fighting 68 and a share of 10th. After a nice birdie at 14, Hoey made a hash of the long 15th and needed to hole a five-footer for his second bogey six of the day.

Yet he then went within a whisker of an ace with a superb five-iron to inches at the 202-yard 16th followed by a chip-in from 18 yards for eagle at 17. Hoey got up-and-down nicely from greenside rough to save par at the last. Canizares led England's Seve Benson (63) by one.

Damien McGrane, runner-up to Hoey here two years ago, shot a two-under 70. Shane Lowry recovered from a shaky start for a 72, one better than Simon Thornton, while Paul McGinley, David Higgins, Peter Lawrie and Tour rookie Kevin Phelan all shot 76.

Rebecca Codd was Ireland's standard-bearer in a share of ninth on two-under after a first-round 69 at the Lalla Meryem Cup in Agadir's Golf de l'Ocean, though amateur Olivia Mehaffey, just 16, could be proud of the 72 which left her tied 39th at day's end in this Ladies European Tour event.

The Ulster and Ireland girls stalwart was tied with French amateur Mathilda Cappeliez on one-over, one inside the projected cut mark. Chinese teenager, Jing Yan, the British Amateur Open Strokeplay champ, shared fourth after a splendid 68.

VALSPAR CHAMPIONSHIP, LIVE, SKY SPORTS 4, 7.00PM

TROPHEE HASSAN II, LIVE, SKY SPORTS 4, 11.00AM

Irish Independent

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