Harrington and McGinley make early headway in Dunhill test
Pádraig Harrington and Paul McGinley beat the fear factor to surge into contention at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.
The former World Cup winners fired three-under 69s in strong crosswinds at Kingsbarns to lie just one stroke behind Australia's Marcus Fraser and England's Matt Wallace in a tie for third. The Irish veterans found the links conditions to their liking with McGinley (51) impressively carding five birdies in his first competitive round for two months.
"I hit my irons pretty well pretty much all through most of the round, pin-high a lot," said Harrington (47), who won the event in 2002 and 2006. "The wind is obviously difficult. So I really wasn't in trouble very much.
"I missed a tap-in on 16 from less than a foot. It didn't make any of the putts easier after that."
After missing the cut in Portugal two weeks ago, Harrington admitted it felt "scary" to pick up a club again after an 11-day break.
"I thought I would never be ready for today, but there you go, a little bit of focus, a little bit of, I suppose, being in competition, it sharpens you a little bit," said the Dubliner, who was second in the Czech Republic and fifth in the KLM Open last month.
"I was really good mentally today when I thought I was going to struggle, so happily surprised."
While he captured The Open at Carnoustie in 2007, he's taking nothing for granted ahead of his second round at the notoriously testing Angus links.
"I for one always go into Carnoustie with a bit of trepidation," he said. "Just because I've won there doesn't mean I'm going to breeze around the place."
Of the Ryder Cup stars in action at Kingsbarns, Brooks Koepka shot a two-under 70 to match Tyrrell Hatton, who is seeking a hat-trick of wins in the event while Tommy Fleetwood played his last eight holes in four-under for a one-under 71.
Shane Lowry made just one birdie in a level-par 72 at Kingsbarns where Graeme McDowell dropped seven shots in his first six holes but battled to a five-over 77 as Paul Dunne double-bogeyed the ninth and 13th before making a triple-bogey seven at the 18th in a six-over 78.
Former winner Michael Hoey carded a two-over 74 on the Old Course at St Andrews were Tramore's Robin Dawson failed to make a birdie in a 74.
That didn't affect his Pro-Am partnership with rugby legend Brian O'Driscoll, however, as they posted a six-under 66 lie just three shots off the lead in a tie for 11th with Harrington and JP McManus.
In the wind-lashed Monaghan Irish Challenge at Concra Wood, Team Ireland's Brian Casey and The Island's Paul McBride shot two-under 70s to trail Welshman Rhys Enoch by four strokes in joint 15th. Enoch made an eagle and five birdies in a six-under 66 in 30kph gusts to head the field by a shot before play was halted by darkness with five groups still to finish.
"There were a few holes where you had to hold on," said Casey (27), who battled back from three-over after three holes. "I need something good to happen because I missed out at Q School. I need a good result. I think it's going to turn around."
Gavin Moynihan, Conor O'Rourke and Neil O'Briain are well placed after 72s, while Kevin Phelan and Cameron Raymond resume on level-par.
John Ross Galbraith, Tim Rice, Niall Kearney and Cormac Sharvin shot 73, Jonny Caldwell and Ruaidhri McGee 74s, Brendan McCarroll and Stuart Grehan 75s and Gary Hurley a 76.
Dermot McElroy took nine at the last for a 77 to match Luke Donnelly as amateur Tom McKibbin shot 78 and Michael Dallat an 81.
At the Symetra Tour Championship in Florida, Leona Maguire opened with a one-under 71 at Daytona Beach to trail clubhouse leader Elin Arvidsson of Sweden by five shots.
She needs to win to earn her LPGA Tour card, or clinch a top 10 finish to avoid a trip to stage two of the Q-School.
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