Saturday 17 March 2018

Harrington in hunt after late flourish


Bernie McGuire, at Castle Stuart

A pair of closing birdies boosted Padraig Harrington's spirits as he battled sinus problems in carding a three-under-par 69 in the opening round of the Scottish Open yesterday.

That left the Dubliner trailing four strokes behind joint leaders Lee Westwood and Chilean-born rookie Mark Tullo, who registered the official Castle Stuart course record with a score of 65.

Tullo afterwards bemused everyone with tales of his recent search in Edinburgh for a Tullo tartan, and the fact that his English-born father had met his Dutch-born mother in Ireland, where he serenaded her with a Spanish song around a bonfire.

"My dad was playing the guitar and sang to my mother in Spanish, 'Yo Tengo Unos Ojos Negres'. He was trying to play the cool guy. I guess he played his cards right. Dutch ladies are not easy to get -- that's what I hear."

Neither are 65s on this track. Take a bow Signor Tullo.

Peter Lawrie was the best of the Irish. Out in the very first group, he birdied his first three holes on his way to a four-under-par 68.

After holing a 15-foot birdie putt at the penultimate hole, Harrington was surprised when his second shot from 270 yards out came up 55 yards short at the last.

However, the three-times Major champion, who looked to be struggling with watery eyes, played a superb chip shot to just four feet and duly sank the putt for the fifth birdie of his round.

"I was getting a bit frustrated earlier on because with the obvious birdie holes, I didn't make them so obvious," he said.

"But then when you birdie the last two you can't complain."

Graeme McDowell was in the group ahead of Harrington's and revealed that his three-ball of Justin Rose (69) and Angel Cabrera (71) was put 'on the clock' from the eighth to 12th holes.

However, McDowell was more annoyed to duff a chip shot at the last for a bogey -- after his three-wood second shot stopped 20 yards short of the green -- in a round of 69 to be tied with Harrington, Paul McGinley, Darren Clarke and Shane Lowry.

"I just decelerated on that chip and it's always disappointing to bogey the last in any round, but aside from that I played really solid, giving myself a ton of chances," McDowell said.

"I had a couple of untidy three-putts early on, including two and four, but it's a decent enough start and I'm not sure if we got the best side of the draw or not. I guess we'll find out in the morning."

However, there was delight for the former US Open winner, who drove to the green at the par-four 10th hole, and two-putted from 30 feet for the third of five birdies in his round.

Lawrie grabbed the distinction of setting a new Castle Stuart course record right on noon, but that lasted just 35 minutes, and with the father of four far from delighted in recording 33 putts.

"It's not like me to walk off the course kind of niggled but I certainly am," he said.

Clarke began in the same manner as Lawrie with three birdies in succession from the par-four 10th tee in holing putts of six feet and then a 24-footer at the next before sinking a 30-foot birdie gem at the uphill par-five 12th.

But the world No 109 dropped two shots in a row at his sixth and seventh holes ahead of the highlight of his day when Clarke hit a nine-iron to six feet for eagle at the par-five 15th.

Clarke was left seething, though, when at the last his ball landed inches short of the green and rolled 25 yards down the slope and into a gorse bush, where he had to take a penalty drop en route to a bogey and a 69.


"The shot was a foot -- no less than a foot -- from perfect and I think that bush won't be there next year," he said.

A birdie, eagle, birdie run around the turn put the fire into Westwood's round. Three more birdies coming home took him to eight-under before a bogey at the seventh, his 16th, temporarily clipped his wings.

"It's a great start. You are never quite sure what to expect when you come to a course you have never played before. I have played great since the Masters. I did some nice work on the range last week. Feeling good," said the Englishman.

Westwood does not share the superstition about winning the week before a Major. He is aiming to peak next week, but he will happily take a victory in Scotland.

"I'm playing the week before a Major championship because I like being competitive and the aggression of making putts," he said.

Colin Montgomerie shot 67, despite a bogey at the last. He would love three more 67s in pursuit of the top-five finish he needs to stand a chance of qualifying for Sandwich.

The first day of competition returned every hole score from one to 10.

Welshman Philip Price recorded the ace at the 11th hole and received 168 bottles of champagne, one for every yard, as his reward.

The 10 was carded by Spain's Ignacio Garrido at the 12th. Incredibly Garrido came home in level par, one better than Price. Great game this.

Scottish Open,

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Irish Independent

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