Record-breaker Molinari leads

Italian Francesco Molinari broke the course record at County Louth Golf Club in Thursday’s first round to lead The 3 Irish Open.

Italian Francesco Molinari broke the course record on a day of spectacular scoring in The 3 Irish Open at County Louth on Thursday – but Padraig Harrington failed once again to ignite his season.
While the Open and US PGA champion, without a top 10 finish since January, managed only a one over par 73 after losing a ball on the final hole, Molinari grabbed an eagle and eight birdies in his stunning nine under par 63.
Yet brilliant though that was – it matched the lowest round of the 26-year-old’s European Tour career – it was good enough for only a one-stroke lead.
Only 40 minutes earlier Swede Johan Edfors had equalled the old record for Baltray after collecting no fewer than 10 birdies.
“I enjoy links golf and I enjoyed it a lot today,” smiled Molinari, whose older brother Edoardo was the US Amateur champion in 2005.
It helps, of course, when you make a make a 20-footer for birdie on the first and then a 30-footer for eagle at the third, but nobody could accuse the Turin golfer of not capitalising on those early bonuses.
“I played a lot of links golf as an amateur and it’s just a matter of getting used to it again,” he added.
Not that the course played hard and fast. Rain softened it up and everybody was able to attack the flags more as a result – some more successfully than others inevitably.
Harrington’s closing bogey six was not his only one of the day. He also had one on the 531-yard sixth.
But the Dubliner, commuting from home by helicopter, did his best to look on the bright side.
“I felt good about a lot of things strangely enough,” he commented. “I will focus on that and in three months I could be on top of the world.
“I was always hanging on in there, but that’s how the game is. Some days it just does not go for you and some days everything goes for you. I’ve just got to stay patient.”
Graeme McDowell fared even worse than Harrington, crashing to a five-over 77, but fellow Northern Irishmen Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke both bounced back from two over at one stage to finish on three under and one under, respectively.
John Daly, second in Italy on Sunday, kept another colourful pair of trousers under waterproofs all day but his impressive comeback continued with a 68, the same as Lee Westwood.
After two successive missed cuts, Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie, paired with McIlroy the day after the 20-year-old controversially described the match against the Americans as “an exhibition”, returned a 70.
However, in addition to Molinari and Edfors, no fewer than seven players shot 66, including Scot Paul Lawrie and England’s Oliver Wilson, doubtful earlier in the week because of a neck injury and a chest inflammation known as costro-chondritis.
Wilson has not played since the Masters, pulling out just before the start of last week’s Players Championship, but said: “I’m on strong anti-inflammatories and I’m really pleased with that round.”
He felt it was important to get off to a good start and certainly did that. After birdies on the first two he matched Molinari’s eagle at the next.
Another on six under was Liverpool’s Nick Dougherty, who fell out of Ryder Cup reckoning after his mother died suddenly last April and only now looks to be returning to something like the form he was showing just before that.
He has not had a top-10 finish since last August and only recently spoke of the European Tour not being a very friendly place as he grieved.
“People come up to you and say ‘I’m sorry’, but then they want to beat you – I didn’t like that,” he said.
Today he clarified that by stating it was a natural reaction from other players and not meant as criticism.
“Everyone was superb with me. I could not ask any more,” he added.
McIlroy stuck by his comments after his round. Asked if he regretted saying the Ryder Cup was not that important to him, he replied: “No I don’t.
“Don’t get me wrong. It’s probably the best spectacle for golf and I would love to play but sometimes it has been taken too seriously and I would rather win a major.”
(Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 72):

63 Francesco Molinari (Ita)
64 Johan Edfors (Swe)
66 Robert Rock, Roope Kakko (Fin), Shiv Kapur (Ind), Oliver Wilson, Paul Lawrie, Nick Dougherty, Jamie Donaldson
67 Soren Kjeldsen (Den), Robert Dinwiddie, Jose Manuel Lara (Spa), Lee Slattery, Marc Warren, Shane Lowry, Alastair Forsyth, Julien Clement (Swi), Rafael Cabrera Bello (Spa), Thomas Levet (Fra)
68 Mikael Lundberg (Swe), Gary Orr, Martin Erlandsson (Swe), Anders Hansen (Den), Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Peter Hedblom (Swe), Pablo Larrazabal (Spa), John Daly (USA), Stephen Gallacher, Lee Westwood
69 Robert Jan Derksen (Ned), Damien McGrane, Rafael Echenique (Arg), Thongchai Jaidee (Tha), Peter Hanson (Swe), Wil Besseling (Ned), Anthony Kang (USA), Rory McIlroy, Marcus Fraser (Aus), Michael Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), Chris Wood, Francois Delamontagne (Fra), Marcel Siem (Ger), Maarten Lafeber (Ned), Andrew McLardy (Rsa), Gary Lockerbie, David Drysdale, Emanuele Canonica (Ita)
70 Jeppe Huldahl (Den), Steve Webster, Ross Fisher, Colin Montgomerie, Jarmo Sandelin (Swe), Estanislao Goya (Arg), David Horsey, David Frost (Rsa), Steven O’Hara, Graeme Storm, Gary Murphy, Stephen Dodd, Alexander Noren (Swe), Pablo Martin (Spa), Gregory Havret (Fra)
71 David Carter, James Kingston (Rsa), Soren Hansen (Den), Klas Eriksson (Swe), Kenneth Ferrie, Simon Dyson, Simon Wakefield, Jose-Maria Olazabal (Spa), Thomas Bjorn (Den), Niclas Fasth (Swe), Michael Jonzon (Swe), Oskar Henningsson (Swe), Michael Hoey, Bradley Dredge, Richard Bland, Hennie Otto (Rsa), Magnus A Carlsson (Swe), Eamonn Brady, David Howell, Phillip Price, Mark Brown (Nzl), Darren Clarke, Paul Broadhurst, Raphael Jacquelin (Fra), Richard Green (Aus), Ignacio Garrido (Spa), Paul McGinley
72 Jean-Baptiste Gonnet (Fra), Richie Ramsay, Noel Fox, Charl Schwartzel (Rsa), Mikko Ilonen (Fin), Paul Waring, Peter Lawrie, Mads Vibe-Hastrup (Den), Simon Khan, Anthony Wall, Alessandro Tadini (Ita), David Dixon, Des Smyth, Phillip Archer, Pedro Figueiredo (Por), Chapchai Nirat (Tha), Sam Little, Robert Giles
73 Barrie Trainor, Alvaro Velasco (Spa), Thomas Aiken (Rsa), Patrik Sjoland (Swe), Gareth Maybin, Rhys Davies, David Lynn, Oliver Fisher, Brett Rumford (Aus), Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spa), Richard Finch, John Kelly (USA), Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (Spa), Padraig Harrington, Barry Lane, Ross McGowan, Richard Sterne (Rsa)
74 Christian Cevaer (Fra), Anton Haig (Rsa), Per-Ulrik Johansson (Swe), Pelle Edberg (Swe), Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia (Ind), Seve Benson, Ricardo Gonzalez (Arg), Alexandre Rocha (Bra), Felipe Aguilar (Chi), Philip Walton, Mark Foster
75 Daniel Vancsik (Arg), Michael Mcgeady, Benn Barham, Alejandro Canizares (Spa), Scott Drummond
76 Jonathan Caldwell, Zane Scotland, Michael Campbell (Nzl), Scott Strange (Aus), Eoin Arthurs, Damian Mooney, Taco Remkes (Ned), Jean-Francois Lucquin (Fra), Simon Thornton, Peter O’Malley (Aus)
77 John