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Harrington hits birdie trail as Phelan leads Irish charge at BMW


Padraig Harrington

Padraig Harrington

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Padraig Harrington

Padraig Harrington made a welcome to return to form with the putter to catapult himself into the top 20 after the opening round of the Travelers Championship in Connecticut last night.

Harrington, who has missed three of his last four cuts, carded a four-under-par 66 at the TPC River Highlands venue, his slow start erased by a brilliant back-nine run of four consecutive birdies from the 13th to the 16th.

The Dubliner's impressive opening salvo - with just one bogey - sees him trailing leader Bubba Watson by four shots after the 2010 winner's stunning round of 62.

Meanwhile, Shane Lowry finds himself stuck in first gear after a high-octane opening day at the BMW International in Munich.

While birdies flowed at the Eichenried Golf Club, Lowry failed to capitalise in an opening round of level-par 72, seven shots behind joint leaders Denmark's Lasse Jensen, England's Daniel Gaunt and Rafa Cabrera-Bello of Spain.

Fresh from his US Open top 10, the 28-year-old Lowry would have been expecting a far easier time in Germany on a course that has traditionally promoted low scoring, but after picking up a shot on the par-five 11th - his second hole - Lowry carded three bogeys in succession from the 14th.

The Offaly man steadied the ship after that, playing the last 11 holes of his round in a bogey-free two-under for his 72. Playing partner Martin Kaymer, who missed the cut in defence of his US Open title at Chambers Bay, grabbed birdies on the 11th and 18th but faded to join Lowry on level-par.

The third member of the marquee three-ball, world No 7 Henrik Stenson, overcame a triple bogey on his card with eight birdies to finish on five-under. Stenson made an ideal start with birdies on the 11th and 12th, but then contrived to take seven on the 319-yard 16th when his approach spun into a water hazard. The 39-year-old bounced back with a birdie on the 18th and picked up another shot on the first before surging through the field with four birdies in succession from the fifth.

Another birdie looked on the cards following a perfect drive on the par-five ninth, but Stenson pulled his approach left of the green and saw it bounce off a path and into a hospitality tent.

"Eight birdies and a triple isn't too bad," said the Swede.

Cabrera-Bello has finished fourth, 13th and second in his last three events, but let good chances to win a third Tour title slip from his grasp in the Irish Open and Lyoness Open.

"I've been playing well for a few weeks now and did so again today," said the 31-year-old Spaniard, who fired nine birdies in his 65.

Jansen carded seven birdies in a flawless round while Gaunt, a two-time winner on the Challenge Tour, birdied his first three holes and added five more against a solitary bogey.

Kevin Phelan is best of the Irish challengers, firing two eagles in his four-under 68, one shot better than Damien McGrane and Michael Hoey.

Darren Clarke and Peter Lawrie are a stroke further back on two-under.

BMW International Open,

Live, Sky Sports 4, 10.30am/2.30pm

Travelers Championship,

Live, Sky Sports 4, 8.30pm

Irish Independent