Padraig Harrington delighted the home crowds at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation as the three-time Major winner moved into a share of the first round lead at Royal County Down Golf Club, courtesy of a four under par 67.
The Dubliner, who won this event in 2007, enjoyed a spectacular finish to his opening round, recording five birdies in the space of six holes on the back nine to take the outright lead before being joined by Germany’s Maximilian Kieffer late in the day.
The 24 year old from Düsseldorf took advantage of the favourable afternoon conditions in some style, carding an eagle, five birdies and three bogeys to equal Harrington’s course record. Soren Hansen was a shot further back on three under par after the Dane, also a past champion of this event, signed for a three under 68.
Rory McIlroy, whose charity is hosting the event, struggled to a nine over par 80, while the highest-ranked Northern Irishman was Michael Hoey on level par, with Graeme McDowell a shot further back on one over.
Padraig Harrington, 67 (-4)
“Those are ideal conditions for me out there. I love to play a tough links golf course, that’s what I was brought up playing. That’s what I specialize at.
“I’m not saying it’s going to be easy the next three days, but certainly coming to a course like this is definitely suiting me.
“It is interesting having the crowds cheer me on, and it’s encouragement, it’s not expectation.
“I was enjoying it out there. You know, it’s always nice when the putts are dropping. I kind of feel, whether it’s this week or another week, I feel I’m going to win again soon.
“But not every week have I been consistent tee to green and not every week I’ve been consistent putting, but golf is a game that you’re actually better off being a little bit erratic and if it all falls into place, it’s a winning week.”
Maximilian Kieffer, 67 (-4)
“It was a difficult day. The weather changed all the time. There was a bit of rain as well, and it was pretty windy, but I played good, and I think the key today was to hole some putts.
“I had two three‑putts from off the green on the front nine, but then I made two long putts after that, so that really kept the momentum up. That was really nice, and then I had some good bounces as well, so just a very nice day.
“I wouldn’t say I’m very good at links golf, to be honest. But I think it’s just something different sometimes, and that’s what is quite nice. It is not always the same golf course that we play.
“The links courses you have to think a little bit around it more, where to bounce it and that kind of stuff. And I see the shots very well around here and, even though there are a lot of blind tee shots, I really see them quite well.”
Soren Hansen, 68 (-3)
“It’s very pleasing. The rain coming in after a bit of sunshine obviously as well, but the wind straight across on the whole course is coming straight out of the west today, and it just played tough, and I just kept on hanging in there.
“I holed a few good putts in the middle of my round and that sort of kept me going, but otherwise it’s one of those if you don’t hole them, all of a sudden you’re on the back nine and you’re a couple over par. Then your round sort of seems to go away from you.
“But I managed to hole those, got a bit of a lucky break at the last few holes, and got in the clubhouse on three under, which I’m very pleased with.”
Danny Willett, 69 (-2)
“I drove the ball well, and I was in a lot of good positions off the tee. I was never in the fairway bunkers, never in any real trouble. So it allowed you to kind of hit average golf shots, hit into areas, and that’s what I did.
“It never kind of got away from me. There were a couple of bogeys in there, but a couple of good saves. I didn’t really do anything silly, so I was always in somewhat of a position.
“It’s a great golf course. You know, we got to play a lot that week of the Walker Cup, and it was nice coming back and playing it Tuesday and then yesterday in the pro-am.
“It’s just an incredible links golf course. You get tough weather out here and it can play brutal. Today it’s been a good two, three‑club wind at times, but that’s kind of what links golf is. I think it’s great.”
Rory McIlroy, 80 (+9)
“Actually, I felt like I put myself in good positions off the tee, and my iron play was caught in between trying to play two ways. I hit it really well on the range and was keeping the ball down.
“I was hitting lovely little half shots the whole time. Then I got out on the golf course, and the wind wasn’t up that much at the start and I felt like I didn’t need to hit those shots so much. So I was sort of caught in between what shot to play out there.
“My poor iron play led to missed greens, which led to giving myself a lot of eight to 12‑footers for pars and that led to missing all of them.
“It’s disappointing, but I just need to pick myself back up and get out there tomorrow and try and shoot a good one.
“I’m not sure what I’m going to need to make it into the weekend, but obviously I would love to be here for that so I’ve just got to get out there and play a bit better.”
67 P Harrington (Irl) , M Kieffer (Ger) ,
68 S Hansen (Den) ,
69 E Grillo (Arg) , S Kjeldsen (Den) , D Willett (Eng) ,
70 L Donald (Eng) , T Fisher Jnr (RSA) , A Hansen (Den) , A Levy (Fra) , R Karlberg (Swe) , C Wood (Eng) , M Ford (Eng) ,
71 M Fitzpatrick (Eng) , K Aphibarnrat (Tha) , F Molinari (Ita) , E Els (RSA) , R McEvoy (Eng) , R Fowler (USA) , M Manassero (Ita) , S Thornton (Irl) , T Fleetwood (Eng) , M Hoey (Nir) , R Cabrera-Bello (Esp) , N Fasth (Swe) ,
72 R Ramsay (Sco) , S Webster (Eng) , R Green (Aus) , B Wiesberger (Aut) , S Lowry (Irl) , L Slattery (Eng) , M Jiménez (Esp) , G McDowell (Nir) , P Uihlein (USA) , R Karlsson (Swe) , P McGinley (Irl) , T Jaidee (Tha) , A Wall (Eng) , F Fritsch (Ger) , G Stal (Fra) , B Dredge (Wal) , F Zanotti (Par) , D Horsey (Eng) , M Carlsson (Swe) , J Parry (Eng) ,
73 D Drysdale (Sco) , A Dodt (Aus) , A Noren (Swe) , G Bourdy (Fra) , J Campillo (Esp) , O Fisher (Eng) , S Hend (Aus) , L Bjerregaard (Den) , S Jamieson (Sco) , T Hatton (Eng) , J Van Zyl (RSA) , E Espana (Fra) , R Paratore (Ita) , N Colsaerts (Bel) , A Lahiri (Ind) , J Kruger (RSA) , M Fraser (Aus) , T Aiken (RSA) , A Quiros (Esp) , B Neil (am) (Sco) , G Hurley (am) (Irl) ,
74 K Phelan (Irl) , T Murray (Eng) , R Dinwiddie (Eng) , S Khan (Eng) , F Aguilar (Chi) , L Westwood (Eng) , C Lloyd (Eng) , J Kelly (Irl) , M Madsen (Den) , V Dubuisson (Fra) , E Pepperell (Eng) , T Lewis (Eng) , S Benson (Eng) , H Otto (RSA) , P Hanson (Swe) , J Quesne (Fra) , A Sullivan (Eng) , R Wattel (Fra) , G Coetzee (RSA) , R Fisher (Eng) , M Tullo (Chi) , R Finch (Eng) , G Moynihan (am) (Irl) ,
75 S Dodd (Wal) , J Lando Casanova (Fra) , B Hebert (Fra) , M Warren (Sco) , S Gallacher (Sco) , J Palmer (Eng) , M Lundberg (Swe) , P Edberg (Swe) , J Barnes (Eng) , D Clarke (Nir) , W Ormsby (Aus) , M Ilonen (Fin) , O Farr (Wal) , S Garcia (Esp) , P Lawrie (Sco) , C McNamara (Irl) , B An (Kor) , M Crespi (Ita) , R Rock (Eng) , J Roos (RSA) , R Bland (Eng) , J Hume (am) (Irl) ,
76 M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) , R Gonzalez (Arg) , E De La Riva (Esp) , D Fichardt (RSA) , S Hutsby (Eng) , A Johnston (Eng) , G Maybin (Nir) , B Stow (Eng) , N O’Briain (Irl) , D Lipsky (USA) , P Lawrie (Irl) , J Morrison (Eng) , J Singh (Ind) , J Carlsson (Swe) , M Lampert (Ger) ,
77 J Lara (Esp) , J Moore (USA) , R Jacquelin (Fra) , D Howell (Eng) , M Siem (Ger) , B Rumford (Aus) , M Foster (Eng) , A Cañizares (Esp) , C Doak (Sco) , M Nixon (Eng) ,
78 K Broberg (Swe) , T Pieters (Bel) , P Larrazábal (Esp) , B McGovern (Irl) , A Otaegui (Esp) , S Kapur (Ind) ,
79 D Mooney (Nir) , C Lee (Sco) , M Kaymer (Ger) , D McGrane (Irl) , G Storm (Eng) , D Brooks (Eng) , P Maddy (Eng) ,
80 S Dyson (Eng) , R McIlroy (Nir) , O Wilson (Eng) , R Whitson (Nir) , T Olesen (Den) ,
81 G Havret (Fra) ,
82 M McDermott (Irl)