Harrington shrugs off Open blues

 

PADRAIG HARRINGTON shrugged off his US Open blues yesterday by being the only Irish player to match the card when the Volvo German Open began in Stuttgart yesterday.

His 71, the same as defending champion Ian Woosnam, and one behind home favourite Bernhard Langer and Sam Torrance, was a solid start to this 72 hole test on the Schloss Nippenburg course.

However, the lead is shared by England's Vanslow Phillips, Spaniard Antonio Garrido, Dutchman Rolf Muntz, and Canadian newcomer Mike Weir, a 27 year old left hander from Ontario, who had eight birdies and an eagle in his 65. Stuart Cage, Jim Payne and German Alex Cejka, the 1995 Volvo Masters champion, are in second place on 66.

Harrington confessed that his biggest problem was coming to terms with the pace of the greens. "I found them much slower than the US Open and I was continually uncertain over my putts," he said.

He three putted twice in an outward 38, but avoided embarrassment after an inward 33 which was highlighted by birdie fours at the 13th and 18th. "I hit every green but the second, and had 37 putts," he remarked. "That is nowhere near good enough."

Des Smyth had birdies at the 12th and 13th for a 72, while Philip Walton also shot a 72. After taking seven at his second hole, the 11th, Walton had a distinct sense of deja vu. This was the stretch over which the Malahide professional played the most frenetic golf of his career when striving to secure his Ryder Cup debut in 1995. He all but threw away a place at Oak Hill by teetering from one bogey to another in the last counting event before securing the 10th and final place.

Raymond Burns had to cope with an altogether different problem. On arrival in Germany, Burns learned that his experienced caddie Scotty Gilmour had left for the United Stated to resume working for former British Open champion Tony Jacklin on the US Seniors Tour.

However, Burns was able to secure the services of British caddie Keith Nelson and he shot a 75 after taking 40 strokes to the turn. Burns had a birdie four at the last, where he wedged to within two feet of the flag, to give himself a chance of qualifying today.

However, Waterville's David Higgins looks doomed for an early departure after slumping to a seven over par 78.

US Open champion Ernie Els maintained his mastery of the Westchester Country Club with a seven under par 64 to take a two stroke lead over Brad Faxon after the first round of the Buick Classic in New York, yesterday.

The South African, who won the US Open in Washington last week and is defending his Buick Classic title, just missed equalling the tournament record for the lowest opening round when he left a short putt on the lip of the eighth hole - his 17th - for his only bogey.

Tiger Woods bogeyed four of his first six holes but birdied the last two to finish with a one over 72 and said: "I could never get anything positive going for any extended period of time."