Pádraig Harrington is five shots off the early lead after day one of the Ras Al Khaimah Championship at Al Hamra Golf Club.
Harrington managed to brush aside any knee concerns as he eased to a three-under 69 to climb inside the top-20 with Japanese starlet Ryo Hisatsune (20) leading on eight-under after six birdies in a row catapulted him to the summit.
The 51-year-old continued his momentum after a second round 65 in Abu Dhabi with birdies on the third, eighth, fourteenth and seventeenth with just one dropped shot coming at the par-3 15th.
The three-time major winner birdied both of the par fives in a steady front nine but after shaving the hole with several mid-range efforts, he finally moved to three-under with a 22ft effort on the par-5 14th.
After dropping one on 15, he recovered the damage with another mid-range effort from 23-feet to get back to minus three.
Meanwhile, after two chastening finishes in recent weeks, Tom McKibbin managed to put together a strong back nine to move to two-under after a battling 70.
The 20-year-old turned in level-par after two birdies and as many bogeys but birdies on the third and sixth saw him finish on a positive note as he looks to arrest a run of back-to-back missed cuts.
West Waterford’s Gary Hurley’s fledgling DP World Tour career has been characterised by strong finishes and that was on show again in round one as he bounced back from a difficult start to chisel out a level-par 72.
The 30-year-old was three-over after four holes before responding with six birdies including on the fifth and seventh and three bogeys to lie eight shots back.
“I actually played really well for what I had,” said Hurley. “I didn’t have my best but I stuck with it. I had a bad start, three-over after four, it wasn’t looking too good but I stayed in it right til the end which is part of my fabric now to be honest.
“I’m happy, decent start. I know one guy is going a bit nuts but I didn’t see that score out there so fair play to him. Hopefully play a bit tidier tomorrow and move up the leaderboard.
“The course is playing good, the fairways are so narrow, 15, 20 yards wide in some places. It’s tricky with a lot of cross winds. The rough is really unpredictable, different types depending where you are which makes it not very exciting.”
Kinsale’s John Murphy has work to do to make the cut after a frustrating opening round where he carded sixteen pars and two bogeys.
At the top, Hitsatsune could have equalled the course-record set by Oliver Bekker last year, but instead of a closing birdie to get to the magic -10, he carded his only bogey of the day to drop back to eight-under and a 64.
The Japanese is being chased by Ramus Hojgaard, the brother of defending champion Nicolai and Ryder Cup vice-captain Edoardo Molinari and Matthew Baldwin with all three on six-under.
Tour Player of the Year Ryan Fox is a shot further back on -5.
- Scoring HERE