rolling back the years

Harrington basks in Lahinch sunshine to seize Irish Open lead

The three-time Major winner carded eight birdies on the County Clare links.

THE ORGANISERS COULD not have asked for a better opening day script. Shane Lowry’s surge in form continued apace in the morning, and then, in the glorious west of Ireland sunshine, a Pádraig Harrington masterclass on the Lahinch links.

Although coming into this week off an injury-disrupted season, Harrington — appearing in his 24th Irish Open — showed no ill-effects from his recent wrist issue to roll back the years, reel off eight birdies and seize the early lead in County Clare.

Padraig Harrington acknowledges the crowd on the 12th green Harrington rolled back the years at Lahinch. Oisin Keniry / INPHO Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

It was vintage Harrington in front of large Thursday afternoon crowds, as the three-time Major winner basked and revelled in near-perfect conditions, finishing his first round sitting pretty atop the leaderboard on seven-under-par.

Four front-nine birdies, including back-to-back shots gained on eight and nine, set Harrington on his way, and while he endured one setback on 11, his sole bogey came either side of three further birdies.

A strong par-par-par-par-birdie finish ensured the Dubliner successfully navigated the home stretch and sign for an excellent 63 to hold a two-shot lead heading into Friday’s second round, with Wade Ormsby, Mike Vera-Lorenzo, Hyowon Park, Thorbjorn Olesen and Lee Slattery on five-under.

At the par-five 18th, Harrington pushed his second from the middle of the fairway into a greenside bunker but a textbook up-and-down from the sand ensured he finished with a flourish for his eighth birdie of a near-faultless round of golf.

“We’d a nice day out there,” he said afterwards. “On links golf, I always feel like I’m competitive, I’ve worked a lot on getting my head in the game and it was certainly there today. 

I got a few breaks and it was a nice group. I know Tyrrell [Hatton] didn’t play so well but I know myself and Ian [Poulter] were strolling down most fairways having a chat and you tend to play your best golf when you’re not over-thinking it. We were really enjoying it and it ended up with a pretty easy 63 in the end.

Harrington added: “I’d preferred to have shot 63 on Sunday, but the way I’ve been going this year, I haven’t played that many Sundays, so I needed a good score in the first round.

“Out there today, I was in a good place. Head was in a good place. Good things were happening. Hit lots of nice shots. I know I don’t have to play as well as that for the next three days. It would be nice if I did, but we’ll just go out there and try and do more of the same.”

Padraig Harrington hits out of the bunker on the 18th hole in front of the Grand Stand Harrington on 18. Oisin Keniry / INPHO Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

Lowry and Northern Ireland’s Cormac Sharvin are among a 10-man group a shot further adrift on four-under, with the bright sunshine and calm conditions turning Lahinch Golf Club into a picture of beauty on a superb first day at the 2019 Irish Open. 

And there is promise of more to come, as Robin Dawson hits the turn bogey-free on four-under, while Conor O’Rourke is one-under through 13 and Paul Dunne [+1] rebounded after a poor start with three birdies in five holes to card a 71.

Harrington gets his second round underway alongside Ian Poulter and Tyrrell Hatton at 8.30am, while Lowry is off with Russell Knox and Tommy Fleetwood at 1.20pm.

Full leaderboard available here>

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