Padraig Harrington had his injured wrist strapped but used his head in posting a comfortable two-under par 70 on day one of the Maybank Championship in Kuala Lumpur.
The triple Major winner headed to the Saujana clubhouse five shots behind Aussie Marcus Fraser and Spaniard Nacho Elvira who each posted seven-under par 65s.
Thai sensation, Jazz Janewattananoud, winner earlier this year at the Singapore Open, is among three players sharing second place with a round of 66 on the storm-affected course.
It is Harrington’s first competitive round anywhere in 130 days since posting a final round 69 to share 35th place in last November’s Nedbank Challenge in South Africa.
The Dubliner broke a bone in his wrist mid-December as a result of slipping down a staircase, meaning Harrington had to pull the plug on as many as five events on both the European Tour and PGA Tour.
He teed-up in steamy Kuala Lumpur, supported by blue ‘medical tape, for a 10th time in his career and got his round off to a great start with a birdie at the first.
However, Harrington gave the shot back with a bogey at the second and he then repeated the birdie/bogey scenario at the sixth and seventh to make the turn at level par, with all players in the co-sanctioned event competing under a ‘preferred lie’ rule following typical electrical storms that are a part of living in the Malaysian capital.
Harrington got back to one-under par with a birdie on 10 and then moved to two-under for a first occasion with a birdie gem on the par-3 17th.
He leaked his second shot right into a bunker at the uphill par-5 18th before a superb third shot saw his ball just miss the flagstick. But to his despair, the birdie putt dodged the cup as Harrington parred the last to be just inside the top-30 in an event he has finished runner-up at on two occasions.
“It is four months since I played a competitive round and really it didn’t seem that is was the first round I had played so I’m very pleased,” he said.
“I didn’t play very well as I didn’t hit it very well – especially off the tee – I really struggled so it was a really good score at the end of the day.
“I could have made one or two more putts there at the end but then I holed a couple early in the round to keep a bit of momentum in it as I could have slipped back to two or three-over early on. But I kept it together on the back nine and used my head well and managed to get a reasonable score out of it.”
Harrington was last in KL in 2013 for the then Malaysian Open but it has been 14-years since he shared eighth place when that same event was staged at the famed Saujana course in 2005.
“I always have a bit of trouble reading the greens here at Saujana as I have a little bit of bias in my eyesight and the first week back out I am trying to adjust between what it feels like and what I see,” he said.
“It is always the case with me as it takes a couple of weeks just to get used to it.”
And while his eyesight is not a major concern, the current World No. 208 was asked about his wrist and if it was causing him any concern.
“Yeah, the wrist is okay but then I am struggling a bit with my thumb and little finger as there is a lot of things going on when you put it in a cast for six weeks,” he said.”It is just amazing how much periphery stuff that goes on, so I am trying to get all the different muscles, ligaments and all of them strengthened-up and working.
“I certainly didn’t think of them out there which was great.”