Pádraig Harrington makes strong start in Portugal with opening 67

Nino Bertasio blazes four clear with opening 61; Séamus Power starts well in Mexico

Ireland’s Pádraig Harrington plays his second shot on the 12th hole during the first round of the Portugal Masters at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course in Quarteira, Portugal. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

Still learning, still hungry. Pádraig Harrington may have turned 50 years of age in August but demonstrated his ability to mix it with the young guns on the European Tour with a bogey-free round of 67 to form part of a sextet of players in tied-fourth after the first round of the Portugal Masters at Dom Pedro Victoria course in Vilamoura, where Italian Nino Bertasio claimed first-round leadership honours.

Bertasio, a 33-year-old ranked 419th in the world and still searching for a maiden win on the Tour, played an error-free round of 61 – 10 birdies and eight pars – to claim a four-stroke lead over Spain’s Adri Arnaus.

But Harrington – with little form over the summer and into the autumn, which saw him miss eight cuts in 11 tournaments on the European and PGA Tours since his season’s best finish of tied-fourth in the US PGA back in May – showed much of his old self in a well constructed and thoughtful round.

The Dubliner made his debut on the Champions Tour stateside last month and admitted that experience focused his mind after he was “lapped by the field” by his fellow seniors.


“That gave me a bit of a wake-up call that as much as I’ve strengthened my weaknesses over the last number of years, I’ve definitely weakened my strengths. [This] was a good day in that sense. I was a lot sharper. I worked a good score out of it. I didn’t hit the ball great but hit my wedges better and gave myself a lot of chances,” explained Harrington.

Starting on the 10th, Harrington claimed his first birdie at the par-four 11th and then had back-to-back birdies on the 15th and 16th and got another on the par-five fifth hole for a solid start that had him in a group alongside the Hojgaard twins, Rasmus and Nicolai, Benjamin Hebert, Lucas Bjerregaard and Callum Shinkin.

“It’s an interesting course in that there’s a lot of risk-reward. I’m comfortable on this golf course. There’s a lot of intimidating shots, but with the rough being down, you’re sometimes better off bailing out a little bit. You can do that here. You need a smart head around this course this week,” observed Harrington, a winner of the tournament on the Arnold Palmer-designed layout in 2016 which was the last of his 15 career wins on the European Tour.

Harrington proved to be the best of the trio of Irish players on the Algarve. Jonathan Caldwell had a share of the on-course lead at one point when he moved to four under through 10 holes but struggled coming in and ultimately signed for a two-under 69 (to be in tied-23rd) while Cormac Sharvin, in an uphill fight to retain his tour card, slumped to a 76 (tied-100th).

"I putted really well and everything clicked. I wasn't expecting a 61 but I've been playing some good golf," said Bertasio whose only top-10 finish this year came in the Savannah Classic in Kenya back in March. However, the Italian had top-20 finishes in each of the closing two tournaments on the Spanish swing in recent weeks leading into Portugal.

On the PGA Tour, Matthew Wolff shot a sizzling, bogey-free new course record 10-under 61 to assume the first round lead in the World Wide Technology at Mayakoba Championship in Mexico claiming a two-stroke lead over fellow-America Aaron Wise.

Séamus Power continued his good recent form with an opening round of three-under par 68 – highlighted by a hat-trick of birdies from the 13th to the 15th – to be the best of the three Irishmen in the field. Graeme McDowell opened with a one-under 70 but Shane Lowry suffered a disastrous finish, bogeying his final three holes – the 16th, 17th and 18th – to sign for a level-par 71 that put him in a battle to survive the cut.

Wolff, runner-up in last month’s Shriners Children’s Open, said: “I’m really confident in my game right now. I’ve proven over time when stuff goes well and I am confident I can carry it over.

“So, right now, my swing feels really good, my head’s in a good place. I’m just happy. It’s not easy [on tour] and there’s a lot of up and downs, you’ve just got to go with it and that’s something I’m learning as I’m getting older.”

Portugal Masters leaderboard (British and Irish unless stated, par 71)

61 Nino Bertasio (Ita)

65 Adria Arnaus (Esp)

66 Gavin Green (Mal)

67 Nicolai Hoejgaard (Den), Rasmus Hoejgaard (Den), Lucas Bjerregaard (Den), Callum Shinkwin, Pádraig Harrington, Benjamin Hebert (Fra)

68 Wil Besseling (Ned), Min-Woo Lee (Aus), Steven Brown, Mikko Korhonen (Fin), Grant Forrest, Marcus Armitage, Sam Horsfield, Thomas Pieters (Bel), David Law, Pep Angles (Esp), Kalle Samooja (Fin), Oliver Wilson, Matthieu Pavon (Fra)

69 Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel), Stephen Gallacher, Alexander Levy (Fra), Kristoffer Broberg (Swe), Jonathan Caldwell, Joachim B Hansen (Den), Fabrizio Zanotti (Pry), Tapio Pulkkanen (Fin)

70 Richard Bland, Sami Valimaki (Fin), Pablo Larrazabal (Esp), John Catlin (USA), Antoine Rozner (Fra), Robert MacIntyre, Ross McGowan, George Coetzee (Rsa), Andy Sullivan, Laurie Canter, Michael Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), Richie Ramsay, Sean Crocker (USA), Jazz Janewattananond (Tha), Maximilian Kieffer (Ger), David Horsey, Oliver Fisher, Francesco Laporta (Ita), Matthew Jordan, Ricardo Santos (Por)

71 Chris Wood, Alexander Bjoerk (Swe), Romain Langasque (Fra), Pedro Figueiredo (Por), Scott Jamieson, Chris Paisley, Julian Suri (USA), Justin Walters (Rsa), Ross Fisher, Raphael Jacquelin (Fra), Peter Hanson (Swe), Jack Senior, Vitor Lopes (Por), Tomas Gouveia (Por)

72 Niklas Lemke (Swe), Thorbjoern Olesen (Den), Victor Perez (Fra), Marcus Kinhult (Swe), Matt Wallace, Joost Luiten (Ned), Daniel Gavins, Ignacio Elvira (Esp), Adrian Otaegui (Esp), Renato Paratore (Ita), Jose-Filipe Lima (Por), Jordan Smith, Andrew Johnston, Edoardo Molinari (Ita), David Drysdale, James du Preez (Rsa), Jack Singh-Brar

73 Connor Syme, Eddie Pepperell, Richard McEvoy, Thomas Bjorn (Den), Zander Lombard (Rsa), Alvaro Quiros (Esp), Robert Rock, Jamie Donaldson, Robin Roussel (Fra)

74 Graeme Storm, Sebastian Garcia (Esp), Julien Guerrier (Fra), Marc Warren, Oliver Farr

75 Scott Hend (Aus), Ashley Chesters, Haydn Porteous (Rsa), David Howell

76 Sebastian Soederberg (Swe), Calum Hill

76 Lorenzo Gagli (Ita), Joel Stalter (Fra), Cormac Sharvin

77 Victor Dubuisson (Fra)

78 Pedro Neves (Por)

79 Jorge Campillo (Esp)

World Wide Technology Championship leaderboard (USA unless stated, Par 71)

61 Matthew Wolff,

63 Aaron Wise

64 Sergio Garcia (Spa), Talor Gooch, Billy Horschel, Chris Kirk

65 Joel Dahmen, Bill Haas, Russell Henley, J. J. Spaun

66 Rickie Fowler, John Huh, Andrew Landry, Adam Long, Ian Poulter (Eng), Chez Reavie, Brandt Snedeker, Sepp Straka (Aut), Andrew Novak

67 Thomas Detry (Bel), Tyler Duncan, Tony Finau, Emiliano Grillo (Arg), James Hahn, Viktor Hovland (Nor), Stephan Jaeger (Ger), Anirban Lahiri (Ind), Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz (Mex), Aaron Rai (Eng), Justin Rose (Eng), Scottie Scheffler, Nick Taylor (Can), Brendon Todd, Gary Woodland

68 Abraham Ancer (Mex), Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng), Kramer Hickok, Sung-Hoon Kang (Kor), Patton Kizzire, Matt Kuchar, Martin Laird (Sco), Nate Lashley, Danny Lee (Nzl), Maverick McNealy, Troy Merritt, Keith Mitchell, Ryan Moore, Séamus Power (Irl), Andrew Putnam, Rory Sabbatini (Svk), Hudson Swafford, Justin Thomas, Michael Thompson, Kevin Tway, Danny Willett (Eng)

69 Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa), Joseph Bramlett, JD Fernandez (Mex), Doug Ghim, Adam Hadwin (Can), Charles Howell III, Russell Knox (Sco), Luke List, Guido Migliozzi (Ita), Trey Mullinax, Joaquin Niemann (Chi), Alexander Noren (Swe), Ryan Palmer, Chengtsung Pan (Tai), Scott Piercy, Charl Schwartzel (Rsa), Greyson Sigg, Roger Sloan (Can), Henrik Stenson (Swe), Brian Stuard, Camilo Villegas (Col)

70 Tyrrell Hatton (Eng), Matt Jones (Aus), Kelly Kraft, Graeme McDowell (NIrl), Henrik Norlander (Swe), Guillermo Mito Pereira (Chi), Doc Redman, Davis Riley, Patrick Rodgers, Brendan Steele, Kevin Streelman, Cameron Tringale, Vincent Whaley, Braden Thornberry

71 Keegan Bradley, Roberto Diaz (Mex), Dylan Frittelli (Rsa), Brice Garnett, Garrick Higgo (Rsa), Charley Hoffman, Brooks Koepka, Shane Lowry (Irl), J. T. Poston, Harold Varner III, Jhonattan Vegas (Ven), Will Zalatoris

72 Jonas Blixt (Swe), Tom Hoge, Francesco Molinari (Ita), Pat Perez, Adam Svensson (Can), Martin Trainer, Jimmy Walker, Nick Watney

73 Luke Donald (Eng), Brian Harman, Zach Johnson, Hank Lebioda, Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra (Spa), Willie Mack III, Peter Malnati, Patrick Reed, Sam Ryder, Adam Schenk, Richy Werenski

74 Juan Carlos Benitez (Mex), Kyle Stanley, Camilo Aguado (Col)

75 Brian Gay, Lucas Herbert (Aus), Scott Stallings, Curtis Thompson

76 Samuel Del Val (Spa), Taylor Pendrith (Can)

77 David Lipsky

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times