Refreshed Harrington in contention

Padraig Harrington, feeling refreshed again after a draining summer, carded a respectable one-under-par-69 in the opening round at the BMW Championship on Friday.

Padraig Harrington, feeling refreshed again after a draining summer, carded a respectable one-under-par-69 in the opening round at the BMW Championship on Friday.

The Irishman has missed the cut the past two outings but he was understandably jaded after winning the Open and PGA Championship only three weeks apart.

And he admitted his main priority now is to have his game on song for the Ryder Cup in a fortnight after he finished the day four strokes behind Colombian leader Camilo Villegas at Bellerive.

“I had a nice chance at the last for birdie from six feet. If I’d shot 68 I would have been very happy with my day but 69’s okay,” Harrington said.

“There’s a bit of a kickback from that and you have to accept it,” he said of the post major letdown.

“I’m experienced enough in this game to understand there are ebbs and flows. The main thing is to make sure you peak at the right times during the year and I’ve got better doing that.

“It’s inevitable if you do try and peak you’ll have a bit of a dip afterwards. I’m trying to hang on (for the Ryder Cup).

“My schedule was set out this year so I would peak again for the Ryder Cup but I didn’t envisage having so much drama in the middle of the season.

“It’s one thing to win one major. To back it up with another, you really are knocking your systems down, but they are coming back.

“I’m encouraged by this week. I’ve been a lot fresher and ready to go. There was a lot more there today than the last two weeks.

“I’m keen to play, which is a good sign. I’ll have a week off next week and I should be ready for the Ryder Cup.”

Harrington needs to finish at least 10th this week to have even a mathematical chance of advancing to the 30-man Tour Championship in three weeks. However, he may need to do better than that, depending on how others fare.

He was out in the first group of the day on a gloomy morning, but at least there was none of the torrential rain that washed out play on Thursday.

After taking a three-wood from his bag at the first hole, he replaced it with his driver, before being introduced by the starter.

Harrington, dressed in black pants and a white shirt, received a warm round of applause by the gallery of several hundred people. He doffed his cap and then lashed a drive that finished in the right portion of the fairway.

Meanwhile, Villegas bogeyed his final hole, but his 65 was still good for a one-shot lead over Americans Steve Stricker, Kenny Perry and Tim Herron, Australian Stuart Appleby and Argentinian Andres Romero.

“I hit a lot of great shots out there, gave myself a lot of birdie putts,” said the 26-year-old from Medellin, via the University of Florida.

“Unfortunately I finished with a bogey but I’ll be back tomorrow and hopefully put another good number on the board.”

Villegas made his move early, picking up four successive birdies from number five to get to five-under.

He was surprised that the course had drained so well after three inches of rain that washed out play on Thursday, a parting present from the remnants of Hurricane Gustav.

He added: “I thought it was going to be very wet, but the course managed to hold up pretty good. It was very, very playable.”

Although the course drained remarkably well, officials nevertheless allowed players preferred lies for the first round.

Thirty-six holes are scheduled Saturday to get the tournament back on track for a Sunday finish.

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