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Pádraig not on course: Lawrie

IT may shock the Irish public but those competing regularly on the European Tour seem to be coming around to the idea that Padraig Harrington could very well be overlooked for this year's Ryder Cup.

That's the view of Dublin-born colleague Peter Lawrie, who has known Harrington since the pair were amateurs.

Lawrie birdied his last hole in a round of level-par 72 that left him lying six strokes behind 2008 Irish Open winner, Richard Finch of England, on day one of the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles yesterday.

It will be remembered that Finch captured headlines around the globe after he fell into the River Maigue when playing his shot to the final green at Adare Manor.

Five players are at five under par, while Paul McGinley is well-placed at four under par to lead the Irish challenge.

Lawrie arrived in Scotland buoyed by his share of second in last week's Czech Open, when he came from eight strokes back at the start of the final day to force his way into a play-off with England's Gary Boyd and eventual champion Peter Hanson of Sweden.

However after a first round that included three birdies, the 36-year-old Dubliner was asked his views on Harrington's chances of earning one of Monty's three wildcard picks.

"If it was me, I would pick Padraig but then there are an awful lot of rumours going around that he is not going to be picked," said Lawrie.

"If so, then the general public in Ireland will be shocked but the guys who are out here competing, and hearing what I am hearing, won't be shocked. But then at the end of the day, Monty can pick whoever he likes," Lawrie continued.

"It's up to him and the Tour in general puts its faith in Monty as captain, and then in the bigger picture the European Tour wants to win back the Ryder Cup.

"It seems to be a financial benefit to the Tour to have the Ryder Cup sitting in the trophy cabinet at Wentworth."

However, the make-up of Monty's team is a little clearer with Italy's Francesco Molinari now assured of automatic selection following the withdrawal of England's Ross McGowan from the Johnnie Walker due to a shoulder injury.

McGowan, who withdrew after a 77, was lying three places away in 12th place on the points table and said he felt "gutted" to miss out on selection after having been among the automatic qualifiers for much of the past year.

In contrast, Molinari was delighted in becoming the first Italian since Costantino Rocca in 1997 to play in a Ryder Cup side.

"I'm sorry for Ross but for me it's good news," said Molinari. "I came here to secure my place in the team and I've done that now so it is a big relief."

McGinley attributed his second successive opening score of 68 to a new driver in the bag and he could not have been happier after sending a 282-yard drive uphill at the last for what would be a sixth birdie of his round.

"I only missed one fairway and that set me up for a good round," said McGinley.

Meanwhile, Co Down's Simon Thornton carded a 71 yesterday, Shane Lowry and Damien McGrane both went around in 72 and Gary Murphy in 73.