Pádraig Harrington shoots two-under-par 69 at Fota Island

Rory McIlroy 10 off the pace after disappointing 74

Shane Lowry hits his third shot to the ninth on his way to a level-par 71 in yesterday’s first round of the Irish Open at Fota Island. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Shane Lowry hits his third shot to the ninth on his way to a level-par 71 in yesterday’s first round of the Irish Open at Fota Island. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Fri, Jun 20, 2014, 01:00

The deep, greenside bunker by the par-three seventh green is big enough to swallow a human; or so it would seem. Certainly, it provided some light relief in the midst of some rather serious business in yesterday’s first round of the Irish Open when Pádraig Harrington’s caddie, Ronan Flood, was left with the job of raking the trap after all three players in the group took it in turns to propel their tee shots there.

Flood was still quietly and diligently shifting sand with the rake when his paymaster Harrington lined up his par-saving putt, only to be disturbed by the click of cameras.

As is the custom in such matters, Harrington backed off and asked his caddie to warn the light-fingered amateur photographers off. Except, the cameras kept on clicking merrily away.

“They can’t hear you down there,” Harrington eventually called out, still eyeing up the putt, after Flood’s initial warning was blocked out by the cavernous surrounds. With that, in a well-timed jump, Flood’s head appeared above the bunker with the warning: “No cameras! Please.” Cue a burst of laughter from the galleries. Oh, and after matters quietened down, Harrington sank the putt.

Large crowd

The marquee three-ball of the morning wave of players attracted a large crowd, with most eyes on home-grown Major champions Harrington and Rory McIlroy, with Scottish golfer Stephen Gallacher – a prospective Ryder Cupper for the match in Gleneagles – making up the numbers.

As it transpired, Harrington – the only one of the trio not to have flown in from the US Open at Pinehurst – signed for the lowest score, a two-under-par 69. McIlroy opened with a 74, Gallacher a 73.

If he is to stay around for the weekend, McIlroy will need to fire at some flags and to roll in some putts.

Was jet lag a factor?

What about the missing clubs?

McIlroy shook his head.

“I don’t like to make excuses. I mean, I’m jet-lagged wherever I go because I’m travelling so much, so it’s not like that’s an excuse for me. I would have liked to have hit some balls (Monday and Tuesday) and done some practice those couple of days to prepare . . . that’s just the way it goes. I just need to play better the next few years and get my own plane so that doesn’t happen,” said McIlroy, laughing.

This wasn’t what McIlroy wanted or expected. In Wednesday’s pro-am, he had - apparently – shot a score equivalent to a 63 on his own card. When it mattered in yesterday’s first round, the game wasn’t so sharp and some ill-judged approach shots led to six bogeys to go with his three birdies.

‘Bad round’

McIlroy was inclined to take the glass-half-full philosophy. “This isn’t as bad as some of the rounds I’ve thrown in (in past Irish Opens), where it’s 77 or 78. it’s three-over par but I can get those shots back . . . hopefully this is the one bad round out of the way and I’ve got three good ones in me.”

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