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Pádraig Harrington off his greens as Hisatsune fires super 64 to lead in Ras Al Khaimah


Padraig Harrington of Ireland plays his approach shot on the 17th hole

Padraig Harrington of Ireland plays his approach shot on the 17th hole

Padraig Harrington of Ireland plays his approach shot on the 17th hole

Pádraig Harrington dominated the young guns from the tee but a lukewarm putter left him five shots off the pace in the Ras Al Khaimah Championship.

The three-time Major winner (51) was ranked first in the field for strokes gained off the tee, but he missed five putts inside 12 feet and had to settle for a three-under 69 and a share of 18th at Al Hamra Golf Club.

Japan’s Ryo Hisatsune (20) set a blistering pace when he began the week with six successive birdies and posted an stunning eight-under 64 to lead by two shots from Dane Rasmus Højgaard, Italian Edoardo Molinari and England’s Matthew Baldwin.

It was a case of what might have been for the Dubliner, who made birdies at the par-five third, eighth and 14th holes but missed a five-footer for par after overshooting the 219-yard 15th.

​While his birdie at the 14th came from 25 feet and he managed to hole another 25-footer for birdie at the 17th, he might have challenged the leaders with a bit more luck with the blade. Hisatsune (20) made the most of favourable scoring conditions, firing nine birdies before dropping his only shot of the day at the 18th.

“It was so unreal,” said the Q-School graduate, who finished in a tie for second at the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship back in November. “I was just hitting shots, holing putts. Every time I made it. It was so amazing. It’s the first time I’ve had six birdies in a row. It’s my first event of the year and I was a little nervous at the start, but it was an easy start. So lucky.”

Tom McKibbin was second to Harrington for strokes gained off the tee as he made five birdies in a 70 to share 30th, but fellow rookies Gary Hurley and John Murphy have work to do to make the cut.

Hurley brushed off the cobwebs in his first start this year by making six birdies and six bogeys in a 72, leaving him just outside the projected cut mark, while Murphy failed to make a birdie in a 74.

Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell (25) was far happier in South Africa, where he began the Challenge Tour campaign by firing five birdies in a four-under 68 to share fourth place in the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open to lie just two shots behind Spain’s Manuel Elvira.

“It was very solid on a very windy and testing day,” said Purcell, who birdied the three par-fives at Royal Cape as Ruaidhri McGee’s 72 left him tied 62nd. “There were some tricky pins out there, so I played good disciplined golf when I needed to and took care of the par fives.”

At the Asian Tour’s flagship PIF Saudi International, Mexico’s Abraham Ancer shot a bogey-free, seven-under 65 to lead Colombia’s Sebastian Muñoz by a shot.

On a day when two-time Major winner Dustin Johnson withdrew before the start citing a back injury, Cameron Young, Sergio Garcia and Louis Oosthuizen shot 65s to share third, while Graeme McDowell opened with a level-par 70 in his first start since finishing third in December’s Indonesian Masters.

It was a tougher return to action for Banbridge’s Olivia Mehaffey, who opened with a seven-over 80 in the Ladies Magical Kenya Open on the Ladies European Tour in her first start since taking away from the game last August to deal with her mental health struggles.

She’s tied 65th behind India’s Aditi Ashok, who carded a six-under 67 to lead the field by four strokes at Vipingo Ridge.

Ras al Khaimah C’ship, 8.30am
Kenya Ladies Open, 1.30pm
Pebble Beach Pro-Am, 4.30pm

(All live on Sky Sports)

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