Swinging back into form - Padraig Harrington starts well at Irish Open
One of Ireland's four recent major champions made an excellent start to the Irish Open on Thursday, but it was not pre-tournament favourite Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy has a relatively poor record in his national championship, recording two top-10 finishes in seven appearances and missing the cut last year along with Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell.
The 25-year-old had the added incentives of being able to move top of the European Tour's Race to Dubai and getting back inside the top five on the world rankings with a good performance this week, but made an untidy start at Fota Island on Thursday.
Starting from the 10th, McIlroy hit his third shot to the 537-yard par-five over the green and had to scramble for his par, something he was unable to do on the short 11th after finding sand off the tee.
McIlroy split the fairway on the next but came up short of the green with his approach, from where he chipped to three feet and holed for par, while he also saved par on the 14th after again missing the green.
Playing partner Harrington was having no such problems, the three-time major winner holing from 15 feet for birdie on the 10th and from a similar distance on the 14th.
That took the Dubliner, currently a lowly 233rd in the world, to two under par and one off the early lead held by South African Justin Walters, who had started on the other side of the course and picked up birdies on the second, third and fifth.