Harrington blazes clear

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Padraig Harrington’s bid to make 2011 his “greatest year” has got off to a cracking start in Abu Dhabi.

Padraig Harrington’s bid to make 2011 his “greatest year” has got off to a cracking start in Abu Dhabi.

At the halfway stage of round one, The Irish star, hoping to shrug away last season’s winless run and get the new year off to a morale-boosting early win, had surged to the sole ownership of the top spot on the leaderboard with a seven-under-par 65.

That put him one shot clear of Sweden’s always competitive Alexander Noren who had posted a 66, and two clear of Germany’s first US PGA title holder and the defending champion in Abu Dhabi, Martin Kaymer, who shot a five under 67.

England’s Martin Coles, was a further shot back after posted a 4-under 68.

Kaymer’s round, which slowed considerably on the back nine with six straight pars, nevertheless it left him on course for the top-seven finish he needs this week to oust Tiger Woods as the world No. 2 and gave warning that he is back in .

Harrington sizzling round was highlighted by a magnificent eagle at the eighth, his 17th of the day where he holed out with a delicate chip that was Harringtonesque at its best.

As important the Irish three-time major winner was noticeably much straighter off the tee on Thursday that he was badly lacking during his mediocre 2010 season .

Clearly pleased with his hot start, he told Sky Sports: “There were some errors there, sure, but they didn’t catch up on me – and I hit a lot of good shots when I had to.

“I hit some nice drives on the important holes and made some nice numbers. There were a lot of good things but also some average stuff – on another day that would have been a 69 – but I certainly got the most out of the round today.”

Constantly making adjustments to his swing, Harrington also has a new putting routine for his 2011 campaign – and perhaps just as important as his eagle was a closing 12-foot par putt after finding sand.

“The first putt of the day I was away with the fairies, but I made the most out of the round -on another day that would have been 69,” he said.

“One thing showed up in the States last year. I was about 156th in every putting category, so something needed to be done.”

Harrington has never been one to leave any stone unturned in his quest to maximise his talent.

His attention to detail has even has even gone so far as him having the specific gravity of his urine measured on a regular basis to help compile a picture of his stress levels and dietary needs.

Alexander Noren is one shot back in second, while Martin Kaymer – a two-time winner – is in third at five-under. The German’s 67, which came off the rails on the back nine with six straight pars, leaves him firmly on course for the top-seven finish he needs to usurp Tiger Woods as the world No. 2.

Lee Westwood was to put himself right up there with the early front-runner when he hacked his tee-shot into the water at the sixth, hole and made his only bogey of the day.

He was unusually shaky with his driver, but the fact that he was able to make the kind of start he did, regardless, will certainly have been taken note of by his rivals. His 3-under 69 was certainly not something to sneeze at.

“I was delighted, I played well out there,” he said.

“It’s not a course I turn up to and think that it suits me. It’s a course I battle with as it doesn’t suit my eye. So I was pleased with how I went round it – I hit the ball good and felt like I deserved to break 70.”

Ian Poulter, will be hugely disappointed with the way his opening round of the year went pear-shaped to leave him at three-over,

Of the other three 2010 Major Winners in the field, Phil Mickelson, the Masters champion, and Graeme McDowell, the US PGA winner, were at 1-under after four holes and Louis Oosthuizen, the Open Champion, is level par after 16 holes

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