Harrington was a man on a mission earlier. Presseye/Kelvin Boyes/INPHO
clubhouse lead

A home favourite has stormed to the top of the Irish Open leaderboard

Rory who?

Updated at 19.45pm

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON HASN’T won in Europe for eight years but the three-time Major winner embarked on a birdie blitz at Royal County Down to storm to the top of the Irish Open leaderboard.

Harrington, who returned to winning ways at the Honda Classic earlier this year, timed his charge after the turn to perfection to record a four-under-par round of 67.

Two birdies on the front nine were countered by as many bogeys but the 43-year-old clicked into gear down the home straight to sit pretty at the summit of an event he won in 2007.

He is tied with Maximilian Kieffer with Denmark’s Soren Hansen a shot further behind.

“I do win at tough courses,” he said afterwards. “The mental side of my game is the strongest so give me a strong course and I’ll go out there and manage it and get on with it.

“Most of my wins have come on the toughest of the tough courses.”

After the disappointment of Rory McIlroy’s round earlier in the day, Harrington produced a performance to hearten the locals, who came out in their thousands for the opening day of the much anticipated tournament.

Indeed, there was plenty of support for Harrington, none more so than on the 16th when a huge roar greeted his birdie three. It was his fifth in six holes.

There is extra incentive for Harrington this week with valuable world ranking points on offer as he looks to qualify for next month’s US Open.

The Dubliner, who is currently 86th in the rankings, needs strong finishes this week and at next week’s St Jude Classic on the PGA Tour if he is to harbour any hopes of qualifying for Chambers Bay.

He hasn’t made a bad start.

‘I want to give them something to cheer and not just get the sympathy claps I got today’

Rory McIlroy had an absolute nightmare at the Irish Open

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