No rain on Harrington's well-supported parade

 

IRISH OPEN:THE FASHION statement, no rain gear and a mauve-coloured top that last saw duty in the humidity of Connecticut, wasn’t for Iron Man purposes.

It just showed Pádraig Harrington was comfortable in his own skin, even if he was, as he put it, “pleasantly taken aback,” at the level of support he received here in yesterday’s opening round.

“You expect good support in Ireland, but I’m in Graeme’s back garden and yet I felt I was equally as supported,” said the three-time Major champion.

McDowell – for his part – might have wished there were more with X-ray vision around the back of the 17th green, in close proximity to the Rathmore Golf Club clubhouse where he was introduced to the sport as a child, when he lost a ball in the gorse bush.

In what was an extremely convivial three-ball, Harrington’s 67 was matched by defending champion Simon Dyson, while G-Mac – the two-shot penalty for the lost ball a source of some irritation – signed for a 71.

“The Shrine didn’t do me much good,” said McDowell, referring to the cabinet in his home club which houses his replica US Open trophy and the British Amateur trophy won by club-mate Alan Dunbar.

Indeed, McDowell’s fortunes – that double-bogey coming with a lob wedge in his hand on the 17th (his eighth) hole – were in stark contrast to those of Harrington, who chipped-in from 30 yards from heavy rough for a birdie on the same hole, en route to an entirely satisfactory start to his bid to claim a second Irish Open title.

He won at Adare Manor in 2007, the precursor to a golden run that saw him claim the British Open at Carnoustie that year, the first of three Majors in a 13-month spell.

As starts go, this wasn’t at all bad: “Yeah, I did a lot of good stuff, kept the driver in play,” before a slight hesitation followed by: “Apart from four, five and eight. I didn’t know the line off five. Or eight, they moved up the tee there . . . I hit the driver solid, right in the middle of the club face a lot of times.”

Despite a closing three-putt bogey on the par-five ninth, it was a good day’s work for Harrington, who has shown decent from in recent weeks, highlighted by that tied-fourth finish in the US Open.

If there was one little gripe, it was the course had been made a little too easy, with some tee boxes moved up and generous pin placements for fear of the weather being too inclement.

For the most part, he was a very happy chap. And his pretournament belief that this course would be capable of staging a British Open was only affirmed, albeit with the par being reduced from a 72 to a 70.

But McDowell has a bit of work to do.

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