| 8.7°C Dublin

Harrington starts on right foot

GOLF: Pádraig Harrington made a strong start to the defence of his Iskandar Johor Open title as an opening 64 left the Dubliner one shot off the lead midway through the first round in Malaysia.

Harrington lifted the trophy 12 months ago when the tournament was part of the Asian Tour and having missed the cut at last week’s Singapore Open, bounced back with a seven-under-par total at Horizon Hills Golf and Country Club to trail Dutchman Joost Luiten by one stroke in the event now co-sanctioned by the European Tour.

Starting at the 10th, Harrington began moving in the right direction with an eagle at the 13th before picking up birdies at the 15th and 16th to quickly climb to four under par.

A bogey at the next checked his progress but it proved a minor setback as Harrington responded with four birdies on the front nine to complete a satisfying opening effort.

“It’s always nice when you come back to defend a title to put in a good showing. It’s great to be up near the top of the leaderboard, even though it’s early days, and it’s even nicer to be playing well. So it’s a case of so far, so good,” said Harrington.

“I left a few shots out there but I’m still very happy with the score. I’m a bit surprised the scoring in general isn’t a little lower than it is.

“In our group, we must’ve made at least 25 birdies between us, and in some ways we fed off each other. A lot of times we made similar sorts of birdies on the same holes, which definitely helps you to keep your own momentum going.”

Luiten, meanwhile, carded the best round of the day so far with a 63 as the par-71 layout in Johor Bahru gave up a number of low scores.