It's hard work for Harrington on 'Big Easy'
Pete Dye usually teases and tantalises tour professionals with his golf courses, but his 7,425-yard creation at TPC Louisiana truly was 'the Big Easy' during yesterday's opening round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Though Padraig Harrington held his own with a two-under-par 70, the Dubliner still lay six off the early clubhouse lead set by New Yorker Andrew Svoboda (34) with a course record-equalling 64.
With the wind unlikely to strengthen significantly today, the cut could fall at two-under or better, so Harrington must keep his wits about him to be certain of making the weekend for only the fourth time in nine PGA Tour outings this year.
The 42-year-old Irishman made four birdies, but his efforts to build much-needed momentum and confidence were undermined by a three-putt bogey at six and his failure to hole from inside five feet for par at 15.
Harrington found just six of 14 fairways off the tee, but a hard winter has left this golf course bereft of rough, so he should have created more birdie chances yesterday, especially with so many wedges in his hand.
Though he holed out nicely from 11 feet to pick up a shot at the long second, he handed it back at six and, frustratingly, was even-par through the turn after hitting eight of nine greens in regulation and racking up 17 putts.
Still, Harrington hit an encouraging 124-yard approach to three feet for birdie at 10 and made two at 14, where his radar-guided 219-yard tee shot came to a rest just four feet from the pin.
Undeterred by his sloppy bogey at 15, Harrington holed from five feet for a lovely birdie at 16, made a neat up and down after short-siding himself at 17, then missed the fairway left and pulled his second shot to hurt his prospects of birdie at the par-five 18th.
Not bad, though it paled alongside the effort of Svoboda, who has never finished higher than 15th on US Tour and relied on two wins on the Web.Com circuit in 2013 to secure his card after making just five cuts in 18 appearances in the top-flight last season.
Eight birdies on a flawless card left Svoboda one clear of Peter Hanson in the clubhouse. Sweden's Ryder Cup star picked up five shots in a spectacular four-hole spurt on the way home by holing from 183 yards for an eagle two at six. Former world No 1 and 2001 Open champion David Duval was prominent among those on four-under after his 68.
Michael Hoey, meanwhile, purred to five birdies in six holes on the opening stretch at the Volvo China Open and lay just two shots off the first-round lead after signing for a three-under par 69.
"I putted really well on the front nine," Hoey said. "Then I'd an easy up and down to get to six-under on the ninth, which I didn't do. That was disappointing, but it's still a good round."
England's Simon Dyson and Alvaro Quiros of Spain led the field on five-under after neat 67s.
Ian Poulter was among those tied ninth with Hoey, while Henrik Stenson, still weak after a bout of gastric flu, shot 71. Should the Swede win this week, he'll replace Tiger Woods as world No 1.
Shane Lowry was on the projected cut mark, even-par, after a 72, while Damien McGrane made bogey at 18 for a 73.
Gareth Maybin bled four shots in his final five holes for a five-over 77, while Peter Lawrie followed a double-bogey six at 15 with a bogey six at 17 and a triple-bogey seven at 18 for a gut-wrenching 78.
* Ulster aces Alan Dunbar and Ruaidhri McGee, both 23, surged into the new season on Europe's Challenge Tour with five-under-par 66s in the first round of the Challenge de Catalunya in Tarragona.
McGee and Dunbar were tied fifth, three behind leader Joakim Mikkelsen after a flawless 63 by the Norwegian.
ZURICH CLASSIC OF NEW ORLEANS, LIVE, SKY SPORTS 4, 8.00PM
VOLVO CHINA OPEN, LIVE, SKY SPORTS 4, 6.30AM