Sport Golf

Sunday 25 June 2017

Harrington gets prime slot to rev up Honda challenge

Padraig Harrington hits his tee shot from the 11th at the Honda Classic. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Padraig Harrington hits his tee shot from the 11th at the Honda Classic. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

William S Callahan

Pádraig Harrington enjoyed a high-profile welcome at the Honda Classic which started yesterday on the Champion Course at PGA National, the renowned 1983 Ryder Cup venue.

This is the first event of the 'Florida Swing' and as a two-time winner (2005, 2015) Harrington received some special attention.

It's not that he demands or needs it, but at 45, and enjoying veteran status on Tour, the Dubliner knows that his days in the sun are few and far between now. That's why he appreciates that the Honda Classic folk remember to honour their heroes.

Accordingly, Harrington got a prime early-morning tee-time alongside 2016 winner Adam Scott and Justin Thomas in one of the 'featured groups' whose every shot was covered live.

He was also interviewed on the PGA Tour's "Talk of the Tour" podcast.

In that discussion with John Swantek, Harrington, who is playing his fifth tournament in a row, went into detail about his injury.

"I have, basically, atrophy in my right tricep, so essentially I've had a trapped nerve in my neck. It looks like it's been there for six months.

Surgery

"The only real side effects I'm seeing is I've lost power on the golf course, and I struggle a little bit with shoulder stability because of it," he said.

After this tournament, Harrington will return home and decide if he will undergo surgery to try and clear up the problem.

Heavy rain on Wednesday necessitated a lift, clean and place ruling and the early starters had the benefit of receptive fairways and greens.

Harrington, Scott and Thomas began on the 10th hole, so they encountered the famed 'Bear Trap' of holes 15 through 17 on their opening nine.

The Irishman battled all the way to register a first round 72 - two-over par in a roller-coaster trip around the course featuring three birdies, 11 pars, three bogeys and a double-bogey six .

Graeme McDowell, who has been named as one of a select few 'hosts' at the Arnold Palmer Invitational from March 16-19, also finished on 72.

McDowell joins Annika Sorenstam, Peter Jacobsen, Curtis Strange, and Tom Ridge, the former US Secretary of Homeland Security, as hosts the first staging of the tournament after Palmer's death last September.

Web.Com Tour graduates Cody Gribble and Wesley Bryan shared the tournament lead at six-under after rounds of 64. Gribble won the Sanderson Farms Championship last October in only his second start as a PGA Tour rookie.

Seamus Power, also playing his debut season on the main Tour, got around in 68 for two-under par.

On the European Tour, the Joburg Open first round was suspended due to a waterlogged Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

The leader, American Paul Peterson, shot 62 (-9) on the par-71 West Course. He led by two shots from England's Aaron Rai and Paul Waring. They carded 65s on the East Course (par 72) for -7.

Ireland's Paul Dunne was on two-under after 15 holes. South Africa-based Dubliner Jeff Hopkins was one-under par through six, and Darren Clarke was two-over after 14. First round play resumes this morning.

Joburg Open

Live, Sky Sports 4, 9.30am

The Honda Classic

Live, Sky Sports 4, 7.0pm

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