Olympic Games team-mates Seamus Power and Padraig Harrington were soaring with 18th hole eagles to put themselves into contention early on the opening day of the AT&T Byron Nelson in McKinney, Texas.
Power was out in the first group of the day, in then overcast and very cool conditions, but turned-up the heat to save his best for last in holing a 25-metre chip-in eagle ‘3’ for a seven-under par 65 on the host TPC Craig Ranch course. Harrington, commencing his round from the 10th, chipped-in from 14-metres also on 18 or his ninth hole, also for an eagle ‘3’ on route to his six-under par 66.
American JJ Spaun was the early clubhouse leader in signing for a 63 with Dubai-based Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Aaron Wise a shot behind with 64s. It’s the first time the Lone Star State course, located to the north-east of Dallas, is playing host to a PGA Tour event after hosting the Tour’s secondary Korn Ferry Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship in 2008 and 2012.
Power’s effort is his lowest score in nearly five months and a lowest starting round since a similar 65 on day one of the September 2019 Sanderson Farms Championship but it won’t count in the Tour’s record books given a ‘preferred lie’ rule in place.
But that didn’t bother the West Waterford golfer who 10 days ago shot a best of 62 in a Monday qualifier for the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I knew my game was in pretty good shape but you still have to kind of put the scores on the board, on the scorecard so it was a nice way to finish in shooting a 65,” he said. “I played well the last two weeks but just haven’t put the scores together, so kind of nice to see that this morning.”
Power commenced his round holing a four-metre birdie putt at the first and then proceeded to birdie the par-5 ninth hole before back-to-back birdies on 11 and 12 ahead of holing a two-metre birdie at the par-4 14th to move to five-under.
He then found the right rough off the tee on 18 and hit a superb 226-metre second over water guarding the green before seeing his third find the bottom of the cup.
“I actually didn’t hit the best tee shot as I kind of pushed it a little bit to the right, but got lucky enough with the lie that I was able to get it just short of the green, and then obviously with placing I was able to have a perfect lie,” he said. “So, I hit it very nicely. I knew as soon as I hit it would be close, but to see it fall in was a huge bonus.”
Harrington’s round, like Power’s, was bogey-free and included birdies at his fifth and seventh holes while he capped his inward nine with back-to-back birdies at the 13th of his round in sinking a seven-metre putt and holing a metre-long birdie at the next. Europe’s Ryder Cup captain then parred his closing four holes to head to the clubhouse just outside the then top-10.
“I hit 18 greens in regulation and I probably haven’t done that probably in my whole year, so that was nice,” said Harrington. “It means I drove the ball very well, so that was nice. I was better. I was definitely better. So something like that, you know, I did some practice at home. I really struggled my whole career with that transfer from the range to the golf course. Really find it hard.
“The course is generous and with the moisture, the rain that we’ve had, it softened it up a bit. It’s absolutely perfect. Fairways are perfect. Greens are perfect. Bit of placing, you know, kind of leaves you shooting 6-under par like me and feeling like I should have done a little bit better.”
- MEANTIME —
Former champ Paul Dunne birdied his penultimate hole to be well-placed and just four shots from the lead heading into the third round of the BetFred British Masters at The Belfry.
Dunne signed for a three-under par 69 to be sharing 16th place and easily in sight of the leading trio of the Scottish pair of Calum Hill (70) and Robert MacIntyre (66) and England’s Richard Bland (69).
Hill had been leading for much of the wet and overcast day up until a bogey at 18 while MacIntyre, the highest world-ranked player in the field at No. 45, brilliantly birdied his opening five holes ahead of finding water down the left of six. The world’s top lefty then bogeyed 12 but regrouped to birdie three of his closing five holes.
Joining Dunne over the closing two rounds is Ardglass Cormac Sharvin with scores of 73 and 71 while Clandeboye’s Jonathan Caldwell made the cut with scores of 76 and 69. Niall Kearney was headed home just four days after shooting a career low 61 in missing the one-over par cut with scores of 73 and 77.