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Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
AP Photo/Dave Einsel Pádraig Harrington blasts out of a bunker on the 15th hole during the first round of the Houston Open.
# Lone Star
Good start for Harrington as Walker ties course record at Houston Open
Dubliner shot five birdies on his way to a first round 68 in Texas to leave him on four-under par.

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON STARTED as he means to go on at the Houston Open.

The Dubliner shot five birdies on his way to a first round 68 in Texas to leave him on four-under par.

Jimmy Walker, meanwhile, shot a nine-under-par 63 to lead after the first round in Texas.

The 32-year-old American tied the course record with a 9-under 63 to take a two-shot lead over Josh Teater and Nick O’Hern. He needed only 23 putts, the fewest of any player on the first day, to make up for several erratic tee shots.

“I’m not going to say like, ‘Oh, every time I hit the green, this one is going in,’” Walker said.

“I just kept stroking it. I felt like I kind of got back to feeling that stroke that I was using earlier in the year, when I was putting so good and playing so good.”

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Walker hit only five of 14 fairways, ranking 136th out of the 142 players who started on a warm, placid day at Redstone. He matched the scoring record set by Johnson Wagner and Adam Scott in the first round of the 2008 tournament. Wagner went on to win that year.

Walker started on the back nine and quickly realised that he had the touch, sinking 17-foot birdie putts on Nos. 14 and 16. He holed two 15-footers on Nos. 4 and 6 to reach 8-under par, then knocked in an 8-footer on the par-5 8th.

The San Antonio resident changed putters at the start of the season, and he’s made six cuts in eight starts and already has three top-10 finishes this year. His round Thursday matched the lowest of his career.

“When you putt well,” Walker said, “it cures a lot of ills, for sure.”

Chris Kirk was three back after a 66, and Steve Stricker, John Rollins, Nathan Green and Brendan Steele shot 67s and were four behind.

Tournament organisers lured many top players by grooming the course to simulate conditions at Augusta — light rough, shaved mounds, fast greens and fairways mowed toward the tee. And most of the big names scored well, as they fine-tune their games for next week.

Lee Westwood and Harrington were in the large pack of players at four under, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen were at two under and former Masters champions Angel Cabrera and Fred Couples were one under.

Calm conditions yielded low scores all day. A total of 32 players broke 70 and 87 players shot even-par (72) or better.