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Harrington's hopes high after opening 68 in the Texas heat

Padraig Harrington's Shell Houston Open aspirations shone brightly after he signed for an opening four-under-par 68 yesterday.

It was Harrington's lowest starting round in six straight appearances on the Redstone course and placed him inside the top 10 and alongside Lee Westwood.

Crisp, early morning temperatures in America's fourth largest city gave way to the hottest part of the day in the late afternoon with Harrington revelling in the conditions.

Harrington, the only Irish player in the field, produced a superb start to his round when he birdied two of the three opening holes. The unshaven Dubliner was in a fairway bunker off the tee at the first, but played a superb 103-yard shot to four feet and holed the birdie putt.

Then, at the par four third hole, Harrington landed a 115-yard second shot from the middle of the fairway to a similar distance and holed that putt to move to two-under par.

He had to take a penalty drop at the fourth when finding a hazard, but managed to save par.

Harrington then drained a 50-foot monster at the ninth to move to three-under, but gave a shot back with an errant drive down the left side of the 11th fairway, and while he redeemed himself with a 170-yard second shot to five feet, he then three-putted for his only bogey. However Harrington put that behind him with a birdie from five feet at the next to get back to three-under. He was in a greenside bunker at the par-5 15th, but, in another superb putting display, he holed out from 15 feet.

And his efforts on the course translated into sales within the official Shell Houston Open merch-andise tent. On a quick inspection there was just one 'Ladybird' head-cover left on display.

Harrington is sporting the unique red and black cover that was presented to him by son, Paddy, as a reminder of the youngster's remarks at the 2007 Open Championship presentation ceremony. And with the Daphne-brand head cover at $29 each, Shell Houston Open patrons certainly know a bargain when they see one.

American Jimmy Walker led the field after a stunning round of 63 which included nine birdies.

Shell Houston Open,

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