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Padraig happy with progress

CONTROVERSIAL Ryder Cup wildcard Padraig Harrington' was pleased with his preparations for next week's event after hitting a four-under 68 in round one of the Vivendi Cup in Paris.

The 39-year-old, seeking a lift in form with no win since 2008, birdied three of his first six holes at the Marly course and had seven birdies in total.

Yet the Dubliner still found himself seven shots off the lead after the opening day of the tournament. An hour after he signed for his 68, Swede Johan Edfors completed a 61, which equalled the lowest round of the European Tour season and knocked two strokes off his best score on the circuit.

Edfors leads by two shots after 10 birdies and an eagle in his round.

A 59 looked a distinct possibility when Edfors had five birdies in an outward 31, then started for home with three more birdies and an eagle.

However, he bogeyed the 14th, but two birdies gave the 34-year-old former Scottish Open and British Masters champion his best round in Europe.

The tournament is played over both the Marly course, which measures 6,729 yards, and the Retz layout, which is 82 yards longer.

The first two rounds are played in a pro-am format before a halfway cut is made this evening.

Harrington, who paired up with his brother Fergal, had not originally intended to play in this event, but failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup play-offs in America earlier this month and immediately decided to add an extra tournament to his schedule before next week's Ryder Cup.

He is endeavouring to improve on a poor recent Ryder Cup record, which has seen him fail to record a victory in either the 2006 victory at the K Club or the 2008 defeat in Kentucky.

Having missed a two-foot putt at the 14th for his third bogey of the day, Harrington finished in style with a smooth 20-foot birdie putt at the last, but the scoring was such that he did not make the top 20.

The Irishman was encouraged with his performance, however, and said: "If I had putted well it would have been a tremendous score -- you have to hole putts to shoot a low number.

"I could see the two weeks of practice I've just done and I got stalled over the ball a bit, but another three rounds will do me no end of good."

The other member of the European team due to play in the event, Peter Hanson, withdrew because of a chest infection.

Hanson will make his Ryder Cup debut at Celtic Manor starting a week today, and had also intended to fine tune his game in Paris.

But he was unwell earlier in the week and said on Wednesday that European captain Colin Montgomerie advised him not to take any chances.

"I was feeling OK up until yesterday," he said. "I got a bit of a chest infection, a bit of a cold. I have a little bit of a fever.

"I'm a little bit worse today (Wednesday), so not ideal the way I want to prepare this week. But, like Colin said, we don't want to be sick next week, so I'll try to treat that and see the doctor.

"There's a lot of colds and stuff going around. Hopefully I will be ready on Monday. If I feel as bad, it's no point being out here and wasting all of that energy instead of trying to feel better and fresher come next week."

Meanwhile, two of Montgomerie's vice-captains in Wales next week started well, Irishman Paul McGinley had four successive birdies and no dropped shots in a 68 and Dane Thomas Bjorn birdied two holes on each nine in an opening round 70.