Harrington storms into Masters lead

 

Padraig Harrington can do no wrong in this his third US Masters appearance, the Dubliner has stormed into a commanding early lead at Augusta National.

Having opened with a par, Harrington followed with back-to-back birdies before adding two more at the sixth and seventh, then completed the front nine in 31 with a birdie at the ninth. He picked up another at the 11th after taking on the water with his approach and at six-under, he commands a three shot lead over the US Open champion Retief Goosen, two-time Masters winner Bernhard Langer and Davis Love III.

The main topic of conversation ahead of this year’s Masters was the additional 300yards in length made to the course. While it is widely accepted technological advances in equipment manufacturing leaves certain courses almost defunct these days, critics believed lengthening Augusta was only playing into the hands of the likes of Tiger Woods and other big hitters.

Whatever the case, the course is, as ever, presented in impeccable condition and perhaps as in previous years, the tournament could still be decided on and around the greens and not big hitting.

The defending champion Tiger Woods finished a solid opening round in 70 despite not feeling totally comfortable with his game:

"I wasn’t swinging so well out there today but I stayed composed, and grinded my butt off once again at the start of a major championship," explained Woods on BBC sport.

Darren Clarke was moving along steadily, parring the first five holes before making the breakthrough with his first birdie at the sixth. The Tyrone professional immediately picked up another shot at the seventh but gave it straight back with a bogey a the next to reach the turn on 35.

Paul McGinley, also making his debut, had a gutsy round to finish the day level par after opening with two bogeys. Birdies at the 15th and 17th helped the 34-year-old finish on 72.

It has been a steep learning curve for Ireland’s amateur representative but Michael Hoey stuck to his task admirably. The 2001 British Amateur champion was four-over at the turn, the main undoing was a run of four bogeys from the sixth. However, the Belfast player made three birdies on the inward half, including the last, and two dropped shots to sign off for an opening three-over 75.