Séamus Power and Pádraig Harrington quick out of the blocks in Texas
Jordan Spieth returned from a month off to take the lead at nine under alongside JJ Spaun
Séamus Power joined a large tie for third place with a round of 65. Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Séamus Power and Pádraig Harrington jumped out of the traps fast and kept up with the pace in a birdie fest of a first round at the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas, where the Irish duo each got into bonus territory with eagles on the 18th hole.
As Jordan Spieth followed a month off with a 63 to take the first round lead alongside JJ Spaun, the two Irishmen hit the ground running in getting into contention at the new venue on the PGA Tour, which will play host to the tournament for the next five years, with Power signing for a 65 and Harrington a 66.
Power, the 34-year-old Waterford man aiming to make the most of his limited outings on the main tour, had five birdies and an eagle in his error-free round. The eagle came on the closing hole, where he chipped in from 30 yards: “I actually didn’t hit the best tee shot. I pushed it a little bit to the right, but go lucky enough with the lie that I was able to get it just short of the green.”
Taking advantage of lift, clean and place for the chip shot, Power had what he called a “perfect lie . . . I knew as soon as I hit it that it would be close. To see it fall in was a huge bonus.”
Power, who was forced out of the Zurich Classic last month after contracting Covid-19 and who placed tied-54th at the Wells Fargo last week, got off to a flying start with a 13-footer for birdie on the first and reeled off seven straight pars before another birdie, from four feet, on the ninth. He ran in birdies at the 11th (three feet), 12th (a tap-in) and 14th (six feet) before his spectacular chip-in finish. “I knew my game was in pretty good shape but you still have to put the scores on the scorecard, so that was nice. For me, it is my first time here so I am learning as I go,” said Power.
Harrington started his round on the 10th and he had recorded birdies at the 14th (four feet) and 17th (five feet) before holing from 48 feet on the 18th for his eagle. The Dubliner – coming in off a three week break and sharpening up for next week’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island – then kept a hot putter going with a 25 footer for birdie on the fourth and a five footer on the fifth.
“I hit 18 greens in regulation. You know, I probably haven’t done that a handful time in my whole year, so that was nice,” said Harrington, adding: “I changed my routine a bit this week. I was definitely better. I really struggled my whole career with that transfer from the range to the golf course, really find it hard.
“It’s a different rhythm on the range than on the golf course, so instead of trying to go back to what is perfect for me on the course I went with what I do on the range. I went more with my practice routine rather than what I would consider would be my ideal routine on the course.”
Also among the 65 club at seven under par was English veteran Luke Donald. The 43-year-old hit every green in regulation and made seven birdies in a bogey-free round to be among the 12 players sharing third spot behind Spaun and Spieth.
Donald, a five-time career winner, began superbly by picking up four shots in his first seven holes after some sublime approach play to set up short birdie putts, and finished with a flurry by birdying three of his last five.
Spaun birdied three of his first five holes to set up his bogey-free nine-under 63. Spieth also suffered no bogeys, turning at five-under and finishing in grand style by making a 55-foot putt for an eagle three on the 18th.
That pair led by a stroke over Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello and Americans Aaron Wise, Joseph Bramlett and Doc Redman.