Sport Golf

Sunday 18 February 2018

Harrington finds his touch for timely lift

Padraig Harrington in action yesterday
Padraig Harrington in action yesterday

William S Callahan

A chink of light beamed into an otherwise frustrating season for Padraig Harrington as he compiled a satisfactory opening 69 in the first round of the FedEx St Jude Classic in the relatively tight confines of TPC Southwind.

Harrington began his build-up to next week's US Open at Merion in the company of Phil Mickelson and DA Points and outshone both playing companions as he purred to one-under-par, three shy of the early clubhouse lead set by Aussie Nathan Green with a bogey-free 66.

Mickelson made bogey out of a greenside bunker at nine, his last hole in a mixed round of one-over 71 in which the left-hander fought back from three-over with a hat-trick of birdies on one, two and three. Points stumbled to a 74.

In contrast, Harrington was splendidly consistent, the Dubliner's confidence clearly boosted by at last finding a driver he likes after cracking the face on his favourite in Thailand 13 weeks ago.


Though Harrington's only bogey came when he three-putted from 32 feet at the par-three fourth, his 13th hole, the 41-year-old played nicely on and around small greens still a little spongy after heavy recent rain in the Memphis area.

Indeed, Harrington's short game looked a lot sharper than Mickelson's. Though the Californian opened with a birdie on 10, he dropped four sloppy shots in the space of three holes.

After failing to get up-and-down from a bunker to save par at 15, Mickelson endured a comedy of errors at 17, the easiest hole on the course, making double-bogey seven after making a greenside trap in two. Then he duffed a chip in rough to the right of the 17th green on his way to an ugly bogey there.

Harrington, one-under after rolling in a three-foot birdie putt at 13, then eased to two-under with a facile chip-and-putt birdie four at three.

The Irishman balanced out that putting faux pas at four by sinking a 26-foot par saver at seven, his short game coming to the fore as he missed a few fairways and greens down the stretch.

The course seemed to play easier after lunch and defending champion Dustin Johnson was prominent among those to take advantage, landing an eagle and three birdies in his opening six holes.

Damien McGrane, who finished off last week's Nordea Masters by shooting three successive rounds in the 60s for the first time in 24 months, extended that sequence yesterday with an opening 69 for a share of 20th place after day one of the Lyoness Open at Diamond Country Club in Altzenbrugg, Austria.

Yet the real sparkler in idyllic conditions was England's Tom Lewis (22) with a flawless nine-under-par 63 that gave him a two-shot lead over fellow countrymen Graeme Storm, Richard McEvoy and Simon Dyson, as well as Alex Levy of France.

Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez (49) racked up seven birdies during a 67 which left him tied on five-under with classy Austrian amateur Matthias Schwab, just 18.

Though he opened with a three-putt bogey, McGrane played nicely yesterday. He made a facile birdie four at six, began his homeward journey with a sweet eagle three at 10 and landed another birdie at 14.

David Higgins had an eventful one-under 71. One-under after a birdie at 11, his second, the Waterville man bogeyed 16, 17 and 18 but holed a hat-trick of birdies at five, six and seven.

Gareth Maybin fought back for a level-par 72 after opening with three straight bogeys. Alan Dunbar signed for a two-over 74.

Des Smyth soared into a share of the lead with Gordon Brand Junior at the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship with a six-under-par 67 at DeVere Mottram Hall. Philip Walton bogeyed two of his three closing holes on his way to a three-under 70. Peter O'Hagan opened with 74, while Denis O'Sullivan and Eamonn Darcy shot 75.

Chris Devlin and Gareth Shaw shared 34th on three-under after first-round 69s left them five shy of the lead at the Czech Challenge Open. England's Francis McGuirk and Adrian Otaegui of Spain share the honours after opening 64s. Niall Kearney made 71 and Michael McGeady 75.

St Jude Classic,

Live, Sky Sports 3, 8.0

Lyoness Open,

Live, Sky Sports 2, 10.0 & 3.0

Irish Independent

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