Pod shines brightest at Sun City

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Padraig Harrington showed the way to the home favourites when he took Thursday’s first round lead at Sun City.

Padraig Harrington showed the way to a formidable home favourite contingent when he took the first round lead at the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City on Thursday.

But Ireland’s three-time major winner didn’t seem to want to take time out to speak to the media about his sizzling round afterwards, preferring to hurry away to the Sun City practice range while there was still some light

On a day disrupted by thunderstorms, he had shrugged away the two-hour delay, hauled himself out of a recent slump and played the last 11 holes in six-under par to record a day’s best 66 at Sun City’s Gary Player Country Club.

After dropping his only shot of the day at 17, Harrington put his approach at the intimidating 18th hole just 18 inches from the hole for the day’s only birdie there and a great cherry on top of his round as he set himself up to go into Friday’s second round with a one-shot lead over Ryder Cup team mate Ross Fisher of England and a two-shots advantage over danger man Lee Westwood, England’s new World Number One

Fisher, who was first off and was shaping up to shoot a great round, nullified it with dropped shots at the 7th and the 17th that were to cost him the lead.

“It was just one of those things,” Fisher said of his dropped shot at the tough 17th. “I was kind of in between driver and three-wood off the tee on 17.

“Unfortunately, I pulled it a little bit left. I took my medicine and chipped it out and thought I hit a really nice third in there, but it just pitched firm and over, and unfortunately I didn’t get it up and down.”

Westwood looked as solid as ever and was indeed a little unlucky to drop one shot in his five-birdie 4-under 68

“I got a bit unlucky on the two par fives,” he reported,

“On the second and the 10th. I hit what I thought were good drives and they just caught the edge of the traps. If they’d been two yards further right then I was in pole position on the holes.”

He parred one, but not he other

A good few found the greens a little on the slow side on day one, especially when they were going uphill and against the grain, but it didn’t stop Westwood feeling happy with his opening salvo in a bid to win a tournament he is playing for the seventh time after losing in a playoff to Ernie Els in 2000.

“All in all, I’m quite pleased – 68 is a nice way to start,” he added with a smile

Forty-six-year-old Miguel Angel Gimenez is alone in 4th at 3-under with Johannesburg-born Englishman Justin Rose and the defending champion Robert Allenby of Australia tied for 5th at 2-under.

Best of the South African contingent in the small 12-man invitational field are Ernie Els and fellow Open Championship winner Louis Oosthuizen who were tied at 1-under with Italian Edoardo Molinari.

With a rusty looking putter and too many chances going a-begging, Els started with nine consecutive pars, made his first birdie on 10, bogeyed 12, made two birdies in a row on 14 and 15 and then dropped another shot on 18

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