Padraig Harrington’s season debut on the Champions Tour saw the Dubliner card a five-under-par 67 in the Chubb Classic at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida, while Darren Clarke posted a one-under 71.
Having spent the early part of 2023 playing on the DP World Tour in the Middle East, Harrington, a four-time winner on the US senior circuit last year arrived as one of the favourites, and his first round sees him ominously placed just inside the top 10.
He traded a birdie and a bogey on the opening holes, before eagling the sixth to move to two-under. A bogey at the ninth dropped him back to -1 at the turn, but with three par 5s coming on the back nine, he was primed to make a move. And he did just that, birdieing all three and added another at the par 4 13th to go -4 on the inward loop.
Clarke, coming in off a T2 finish to start his season, matched Harrington’s eagle at the sixth, and he’d add birdies at the eighth, 10th and 15th holes, but two bogeys on the front were mirrored by two more on the back, and when he carded a par-five at the closing hole, he signed for a round of -1.
The first round lead is held by Paul Goydos and defending champion Bernhard Langer. At 65, Langer is seeking his 45th Champions Tour win, and the German put together a bogey-free round of -8 to move to the top of the leaderboard, shooting one lower than his age.
They lead the trio of Ernie Els, Duffy Waldorf and Dicky Pride by one stroke.
“Well, it certainly helps to be driving it good,” Langer said afterwards, “and I drove it good today. I don’t always drive it that good, either. But today I hit my lines, I hit my spots where I was aiming and never really got into any kind of trouble.”
Having shot a 64 aged 64 in this event last year, the former Masters Champion went one better this year by shooting 64 again, but this time, it beat his age by one. Asked how the rounds compared, the German characteristically downplayed it. “Well, I don’t know,” he said. “It’s a year later, so it feels even better, I guess. Last year I was 64, now I’m 65. But it always feels good to shoot 8-under par on any golf course, certainly out on TOUR, and it’s great, and I look forward to the weekend.”