Pádraig Harrington the best of the Irish at Dunhill Links
Two-time British Open champion shot a 69 at Carnoustie while McIlroy carded a 70
Pádraig Harrington chips on the 13th green during day one of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at Carnoustie. Photo: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
South Africa’s Justin Walters holds a slender lead after the opening round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, but the English trio of Matt Southgate, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton could hold the upper hand.
Walters carded a nine-under-par 63 on the Old Course at St Andrews to lead by one from England’s Jordan Smith, Spain’s Adrian Otaegui, New Zealand’s Ryan Fox and France’s Victor Perez.
Pádraig Harrington is the best of the Irish after a first round of three under par 69 at Carnoustie – the site of his first Major championship victory in 2007. Harrington was five under with two holes to play after four birdies, an eagle and a bogey but dropped shots at both his last two holes to slip back.
Paul Dunne sits at two under par after a 70 at Kingsbarns as he looks to arrest the dismal form which has seen him slip to 100th in the Race to Dubai rankings – just 10 spots above the cut off point for keeping his card. British Open champion Shane Lowry is one over after a 73 at Carnoustie while Graeme McDowell is one shot better after his opening round also at Carnoustie.
World number two Rory McIlroy had to settle for a 70 at the same venue after hitting his tee shot out of bounds on the sixth, his 15th hole of the day, but it was not all bad news.
McIlroy is playing with his father Gerry in the team event and joked: “As all dads do sometimes he can start to get on my nerves a bit out there, but for the most part it’s been brilliant.
“He loves it and he played well today. He bettered me by five (shots) and his goal for the week was if he could better me by four a day, 16 for the week, I think we have a decent chance.”
Lee Westwood was a shot ahead of McIlroy on three under thanks largely to a hole-in-one on the eighth at Carnoustie, his 17th hole of the day.
“I played pretty good and hit a lot of good iron shots all day and had not made any putts,” Westwood said. “I got on the eighth and it was 189 yards and all of a sudden the wind just dropped.
“I thought I’m not going to get a seven iron back there as I stood over it the first time so I thought I’d better hit a six iron and it came off lovely.
“It landed perfect on the green and ran out and just caught the right edge. Eliminated the putting on that one.”
England’s Matt Southgate is just two off the lead after a bogey-free 65 at Carnoustie, traditionally the toughest of the three courses used for the pro-am event, with Fleetwood and Hatton both shooting 66 at last year’s Open Championship venue.
Southgate, who hails from Southend but has been a member at Carnoustie since he was 16, said: “I’m chuffed to bits.
“It’s a dream come true really for me. I’ve waited a long time to go down that last hole with that feeling. A really, really special day for me.
“The last few years I’ve struggled at this event when it gets so cold and I’ve really struggled because I’m such a feel player.
“If I lose the feeling in my hands a bit it’s a bit of a nightmare in the knock-down shots but we were blessed with the weather today.”
Fleetwood set the course record of 63 at Carnoustie in this event in 2017 and has twice finished runner-up, including 12 months ago.
“I always score really well on this one,” said Fleetwood, who has not missed a halfway cut since last July’s French Open. “It is always good to get off to a good round here and a good start.
“If the wind blows I always find Kingsbarns pretty tricky with the way it’s so exposed. Hopefully get some good conditions there tomorrow and shoot another good one and then you’ve got two rounds around St Andrews.
“I’d love to have this event on my CV. Long way to go but I’ve done all right in the past and hopefully Sunday I have another chance.”