Harrington tied for the lead

Padraig Harrington and Max Kieffer share the lead after the opening round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open on Thursday.

The Irishman and the German each carded four under 67’s in tough conditions on the iconic Royal County Down course. The duo are one stroke ahead of Denmark’s Soren Hansen who is on his own in third place, followed by Danny Willet, Soren Kjelsen and Emiliano Grillo on two under.

Only 13 players managed to card under par rounds as high winds and squalls of rain swept across the links course.

Even Harrington’s round was not without fault, as he carded three bogeys which lead up to a sterling last eight holes where he rolled in five birdies.

“After nine or ten holes I thought to myself ‘C’mon, we’ve got to hit a good shot, no need to be afraid,'” said the 43-year-old on eurpeantour.com.

“I know from experience now that I’m in a position where there’s many ways of competing in this tournament. I’ve two options; play great from now on and try and get away from the field or play average and fight it out on Sunday afternoon.”

The three-time Major winner is looking for his first win since his PGA Championship win in 2008.

Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy, whose charity The Rory Foundation is hosting the event, slumped to a less than inspiring nine over 80. Nevertheless, the world number one is confident he can bounce back and make the cut.

“My goal will be to make some birdies, make my first birdie of the tournament at some point,” said the 26-year-old.

“I’ve missed the cut the last two years so I don’t want to make it three in a row. I want to at least go out there tomorrow and fight for it, try to claw my way back towards the cut line and if I can sneak in there, that’ll be great.”