Harrington off to a solid start

Padraig Harrington, runner-up in the Players Championship in Jacksonville on Sunday, was joint third in the BellSouth Classic in Atlanta today after yet another memorable eagle.

Padraig Harrington, runner-up in the Players Championship in Jacksonville on Sunday, was joint third in the BellSouth Classic in Atlanta today after yet another memorable eagle.

The Dubliner, choosing not to rest the week before the Masters at Augusta, turned in a level-par 36, but then made his move on Sugarloaf’s 608-yard 10th hole.

Playing downwind Harrington’s drive was measured at 360 yards and from there he struck a shot which rolled up to within three feet of the flag.

At two under par he was two behind the early pacesetter, American Tim Petrovic, with Australian Scott Hend the only other player ahead of him.

Harrington played the last 12 holes last weekend in a spectacular eight under par, a run which included a superb eagle on the long 16th. But he had given Australian Adam Scott just too big a start and finished one behind.

Second place still earned him a massive €721,200, but after 21 runners-up finishes in his career now – more than any other active player – the 32-year-old is keen to get back to winning ways heading into the first major of the season.

On the course where he missed the halfway cut a year ago, as he did at Augusta, Harrington did not set off too well in the cold conditions, hooking so badly off the tee at the 558-yard fourth that he had to put a second ball into play.

He made a birdie with it to limit the damage to a bogey six, then holed from three and eight feet on the next two greens.

The world eight did have three putts on the difficult short eighth, but made a 12-foot par-saving putt at the next.

Paul Lawrie, whose 1999 Open win remains the last major success by a European, also had an eagle – in his case at the dramatic 576-yard 18th.

The Aberdeen golfer, tackling the back nine first, hit a 245-yard second shot over water to 10 feet and made it to turn in two under.

Hoever, it was followed by a drive out of bounds right of the first fairway and a double bogey had to go on his card.

Welshman Phillip Price dropped shots at the 14th and 16th in a disappointing opening, while Thomas Bjorn had bogey sixes at both the 18th and fourth and was one over par with five to play.

England’s Luke Donald turned in 39 after bogeys at the first, second and fifth, all as a result of missing the green.

Donald is currently considering whether to rule himself out of Ryder Cup contention this year.

He has to commit to 11 European tournaments to remain eligible, but since he is not in the majors or World Golf Championship events at present it would involve him taking time out from the US Tour to return to Europe and he is reluctant to do that.

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