Harrington lights it up in the Senior PGA Championship opening round

Mark McGowan

Padraig Harrington pitches from greenside on the 7th (Photo by Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images)

Despite coming into the week with mixed emotions following a T50 finish at last week’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill where an eight-over Saturday front nine proved costly, Padraig Harrington showed no signs of rust as he stormed to the first round lead at the KitchenAid sponsored Senior edition at Texas’ Fields Ranch East Course.

Playing alongside defending champion Steven Alker and the ever popular Rocco Mediate, a long birdie putt at the par-four second got Harrington on the birdie train, and he’d add two more at three, six and nine to cover the front side with no dropped shots.

The relentless Dubliner then chipped in for another birdie at 10, adding two more back-to-back on 15 and 16 after stuffing his approach to two-feet on the later, then a routine up-and-down on the par-5 closer saw him card his eighth birdie of the day in a bogey-free 64 to take a two-stroke lead over Katsumasa Miyamoto.


“I think a big part of it I holed a big putt on the 2nd, 35 feet, to get me going,” the two-time Open Champion said afterwards. “You wanted to get up on the leaderboard. And once I holed that, the next is a par-5, I reached that and 2-putted that one. And then all of a sudden I’m off and running, creating chances. So I think that it, if I’m looking for something that could have made a difference to the day was that putt on the 2nd hole. It was 35 feet, in she goes, I’m off and running, hadn’t birdied the 1st, so now I feel good about it.”

For somebody as notoriously focused as Harrington, the pairing with Mediate may have proven particularly advantageous as he alluded to afterwards.

“In some ways the reason it was an easy 64 is because when you’re playing with somebody like Rocco there’s always a bit of chat and there’s always a bit of fun going on, so you’re quite relaxed,” he explained. “And that really does make a difference to how you feel about your shots and things like that.

“So it’s something as professionals we always need to keep reminding ourselves, but when you get a situation like this and it’s showing again, you know, just being out there, chilling, telling stories, the odd joke, Rocco’s caddie, he’s caddied for the greats, so we were quizzing him as we were going around. So there was just plenty of conversation. And you end up shooting 64 and you go, oh, what, you know, you’d nearly forgotten about your score.”

Mediate, in typically affable fashion, would joke with the media asking why they wanted to talk to him when he’d only shot 69. “I just watched a guy dismantle this place,” he laughed. “Dismantle it. But go ahead.”

Alongside Mediate at -3 is Darren Clarke, who struggled to a two-over opening nine with a costly double-bogey the the 18th – he started his round on the tenth – doing the primary damage, but the reigning Senior Open champion turned his fortunes around with five birdies on the front nine, including three on the spin from seven through nine to end the day in a tie for 12th.

Paul McGinley was left ruing his par-5 performance as he shot a one-over 73 to open his account. Birdies at two of the par-3s and one on a par-4 saw him pick up strokes, but he’d bogey two of the par-5s to play the expected scoring holes in +2 for the day, with further bogeys on 10 and 16 seeing him end the day tied for 54th.

Miyamoto, Harrington’s closest pursuer, is playing in his first senior PGA Championship, as is Brazilian Adilson Da Silva who’s one further adrift alongside Welshman Philip Price, with Alex Cejka, Robert Karlsson, Stewart Cink, Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jiménez among the seven tied for fifth at -4.


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