Pádraig caught in a sand storm

'Bunker' issue leaves Harrington six adrift in Bahrain

A week after his disqualification in Abu Dhabi, Padraig Harrington "struggled big time" for a first-round 70 at the inaugural Volvo Golf Champions in Bahrain.

Harrington is six strokes adrift of early pacesetter Johan Edfors, who is at eight under, but compatriot Peter Lawrie is just four back after he carded a 68, which included seven birdies and three bogeys.

Controversially disqualified in Abu Dhabi after an opening 65 last week, Harrington found himself being extra careful as to how he marked and replaced his ball yesterday.

However, he was knocked out of kilter on several occasions by a local rule, which allows the 100 competitors in the field to break with usual practice in golf and ground their clubs in bunkers.

In fact, in his rules notice, issued before the tournament, chief referee Andy McFee categorically stated: "There are no bunkers on this course. There are only waste areas."

Sounds pretty straightforward, but when players spend their entire career being careful not to ground the club or take full-blown practice swings in sand, it's difficult and disconcerting to break that habit -- especially when some of the 'traps' look exactly like bunkers and have rakes lying beside them.

Harrington didn't rack up any penalties yesterday, but his discomfort playing out of the sand certainly didn't help on a blustery day in which he struggled for focus and composure.


"When I was marking my ball on the greens I thought a couple of times about what happened last week in Abu Dhabi," the 39-year-old Dubliner admitted.

"But the biggest distraction out there was being able to ground my club in a bunker. It completely upset my routine for bunker shots. You don't know what to do."

As the wind whipped up in the afternoon, transforming the 7,224-yard course into a real championship challenge, Harrington's Italian playing companion Francesco Molinari purred around in 66, good enough for a share of second place with Pablo Larrazabal of Spain, another Swede Peter Hanson and England's Graeme Storm.