Ryder Cup Captain Padraig Harrington led by example and ignited his quest for a second Irish Open success in 12-years after a sizzling 63 for a one-shot lead on day one of the event at Lahinch.
It was remarkably the 47-year old Dubliner’s lowest Tour opening round score in over 18-years, and close to 300 events thanks to eight birdies and just the one bogey in glorious conditions on Ireland’s south-west coast.
“I didn’t expect 63 out of it. I was expecting a few weeks to get my head in the game and we could then get our bearings, but you know, it just goes to show, when your head is in the right place, especially on a links golf course because you can work your way around the links. I did a really good job of it today
“I love playing links golf and I knew coming into this three week run that if I get my head into the game I have an advantage and today I did a lot of good things, holed a few putts, got a few breaks and it all adds-up to a 63.
“But I wish it was Sunday, as a 63 on Sunday would be a lot more beneficial as I haven’t been getting to too many Sunday’s this year, so I will take it after this first round.”
The effort was also easily Harrington’s best start in an Irish Open
“I know I’m using the word pleasant and nice, and that’s kind of what it was like out there.” he said.
“Myself and Ian Poulter were having a stroll. Having a chat. Good things were happening which obviously makes it easier. I didn’t have to work that hard. I wasn’t out of position very much all day. You know, I think the first real chip shot I had was on 11 where I didn’t get up-and-down.
“It was that kind of day. It was pretty straightforward. And I won’t say the momentum was with me; good things were happening, but it was quite a stress-free round.”
Harrington ignited his ‘stress-free’ effort racing to be five-under par after 10-holes, including birdieing three holes in succession from the eighth.
None of those birdies were better, and none delighted Harrington more, than his putt from just off green at the par-3 eighth where the three-time Major winner exhibited his happiness and waved his cap in delight and produced a shoe shuffle of sorts.
The 2007 Irish Open winner at Adare Manor dropped his only shot of the day at the 11th but picked-up more birdies at 12 and 13 ahead of four straight pars.
By the time Harrington came to the par-5 18th the fairways were jam-packed with supporters, and while he found a greenside bunker at the last, one of the game’s best bunker specialists landed his third shot to just a few feet before rolling-in an eighth birdie of his day.
And always one of the crowd favourites no matter where he competes, Harrington spoke of his joy after one of the ‘most pleasant days ever on a links course’.
“The support I had there all day was right up there, definitely,” he said.
“It was beautiful sunny day. Great links golf course, great conditions for links. A suitable breeze just to keep it testing. Great conditions. Crowd buzzing. Good things happening. Quite a relaxed group. It would definitely be up there with one of the simplest, easiest, most pleasant days ever on the links.”
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