Harrington brought back to earth with a bump
Dubliner finds himself well down the pecking order at the Valspar Championship
Making his first appearance since capturing the Honda Classic title less than a fortnight ago, Padraig Harrington was given a cruel reminder of the fickle nature of golf in the opening round of the Valspar Championship.
Coming into the tournament on the back of his first PGA Tour win since 2008, the Dubliner could not have wished for a more inauspicious start at Innisbrook, a double bogey six at his first hole that included a three-putt from 14 feet setting the tone for what would turn out to be a hugely frustrating afternoon.
Among the early starters, and playing in the marquee group with Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott, Harrington dropped another shot at the 11th (his second) and despite carding three birdies in a typically battling performance Harrington will need a vast improvement to survive the halfway cut.
England’s Brian Davis leads after he chipped in for a birdie on his last hole to apply the gloss to a six-under-par round of 65 around the testing Innisbrook course. Davis’s approach at the ninth, his closing hole, ended up in the semi-rough short of the putting surface but he holed out for birdie to move one clear of Sean O’Hair and Ricky Barnes.
O’Hair was feeling particularly comfortable after his round of 66 on the Copperhead Course where he secured the title back in 2008. “I’ve always liked this golf course,” O’Hair told reporters after his round. “That’s more where the confidence comes from. You know, results from the past. Coming in here I’m confident in knowing what I need to do.
“It’s just a matter of getting there.”
On a golf course that generally ranks as one of the more difficult on the PGA Tour, O’Hair managed a round of eight birdies and two bogeys. After having made seven cuts in eight previous events, this could be the week that prompts the American back into form.
“We’ve been trying to simplify the swing a little bit,” he added. “My swing got a little long and across the line at the top . . . from there, just learning how to hit shots again. I think that’s been the most difficult thing, and being able to trust it. You know, a lot of doubt the last couple of years.”
Another player who will attack the second round is Henrik Stenson, despite the fact he is making just his first appearance in the tournament. The world number three shot a four under round of 67, making three birdies in his first five holes.
“I’m very pleased with the score,” he said. “Especially since my warm-up was a little bit all over the place. Then I got on the golf course, and gave myself five straight birdie chances. Kind of a great start.
“Normally, when I’m playing well, I’m a pretty strong long iron player and middle irons. Pleased with the day’s work. Kept my patience and kept my game plan. All in all, a good day.”