PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON is convinced the next three days of the Vivendi Cup will do him “no end of good” as he finalises his preparations for the Ryder Cup in Celtic Manor.
Harrington grabbed seven birdies and yet still found himself seven shots off the lead after the opening day of the tournament. The Dubliner signed for a four under par 68 but an hour later Swede Johan Edfors completed a 61 which equalled the low round of the European Tour season and knocked two strokes off his best score on the circuit.
It gave him a two-shot lead over England’s David Dixon, while the scoring was such that Harrington did not even make the top 20. He was three under after six, but mixed three bogeys with his four other birdies.
But Colin Montgomerie’s controversial wild card pick for Wales next week was in upbeat mood at the day’s end.
He said: “If I had putted well it would have been a tremendous score – you have to hole putts to shoot a low number.
“I could see the two weeks of practice I’ve just done and I got stalled over the ball a bit, but another three rounds will do me no end of good.”
The event is something of a family affair for Harrington who is joined in the pro-am format by brothers Fergal and Tadhg. Missing this week is the ‘Work in Progress’ signs normally placed about Harrington when he’s on the practice range the week before a Major or a World Golf Championship.
And absent too are the Wilson Staff representatives standing by with computer equipment to analyse every aspect of the Dubliner’s game. And he hopes that some of the spirit of this week continues when he squares off against the Americans.
Harrington said: “It’s nice having my two brothers here as it keeps me in a different mood. I three-putted 14 and my brother made par, so I was not feeling too bad walking off the green. He made his par, so it saved me a shot.
“It’s like a Ryder Cup feeling. If you’re not playing well, but your partner plays well, you can come back and feel good about yourself. That is why partnerships (in the Ryder Cup) have to be spot on.
“We have seen senior players who managed to get rookies to play the best golf of their lives. And also rookies can bring out the best in senior players. There can be an enthusiasm in the team and that’s what team golf is all about. The key thing is to get these partnerships right and make sure that we have momentum going forward.”
And Fergal, who has travelled with his brother to many tournaments, also sees a change in Harrington’s make-up ahead of his sixth straight Ryder Cup appearance.
“Pádraig is more relaxed than he would be compared to the tournaments that I have been to,” said Fergal.
“I’m outside the ropes but he’s always so busy. But every night this week we’ve had dinner and gone out and it does seem that this easy week is already suiting him ahead of next week. But it was just brilliant on Thursday and the best experience I’ve ever had on a golf course. We have had a great time. It’s been good craic all week and Ronan Flood’s been like a mediator keeping us all apart.”
Ryder Cup vice captain Paul McGinley birdied four holes in succession at the start of his inward half on his way to a 68 but still seeks a decent finish ahead of the close of the season.
“There were a lot of birdie chances out there. I took some and didn’t take others. Overall it was okay but I desperately want to have a good finish to my year as I feel my golf is so much better than my results.”
Gary Murphy signed for a 69 and Peter Lawrie a 74 while Simon Thornton had a 76.
Overnight leader Edfors who produced an eagle, 10 birdies and a lone bogey was disgruntled not to be the first to ever shoot a 59. “That is pretty good as I played really solid,” he said. “I holed a couple of good putts, but I am still disappointed. I don’t think I’ll ever get a better chance to shoot 59 than I had. I was 10-under with five to go and I had 80 metres left on 14 in the middle of the fairway and I bogeyed that one and then I birdied 17 and 18 coming in. So I felt a little bit better but had a really good chance for a 59 there. I was playing really nice.”
Meanwhile Harrington was left as the only Ryder Cup player in the field after Swede Peter Hanson pulled out before the start with a chest infection. However he is confident he will be fit for Celtic Manor next week.
Hanson said: “I got a bit of a chest infection and a bit of a cold. But like Colin said, we don’t want to be sick next week, so I’ll try to treat that and see the doctor. There’s a lot of colds and stuff going around. Hopefully I will be ready Monday. There was no point being out there and wasting all of that energy instead of trying to feel better and fresher come next week.”
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