Padraig lights up Transitions

Padraig Harrington lit up the Transitions Championship on Thursday with a spectacular course-record 10-under 61.

Padraig Harrington lit up day one of the Transitions Championship in Florida on Thursday with a golfing fireworks display that earned him a course-record 10-under-par 61.

This, the lowest 18-hole score of his career, also put the iconic Irishman three shots clear of US journeyman Will Claxton, who mixed five birdies with an eagle for a seven-under 64, and five strokes ahead of the next best group that included Australian John Senden and Americans Kenny Perry, Jim Furyk, Jason Dufner, William McGirt, Jason Bohn and Cameron Tringale, all of whom posted 5-under 66s, Perry after bogeying the 18th

World number two Luke Donald, along with compatriot Justin Rose, the winner of last week’s WGC Cadillac Championship, were, in turn, part of a large group one shot further back on 4-under 67 and still very much in contention.

The embattled Harrington started with back-to-back birdies at Innisbrook’s highly-rated Copperhead course on the West coast of Florida, finished with three in a row and had five more in between in a flawless, bogey-free round that took one shot off the course record.

His first-round heroics, and especially his putting, strongly indicated that the three-time major winner from Ireland might finally be set to put his woes of recent years behind and to start climbing back up a World Rankings list that has seen him slip down to 90th from 13th as he was in May 2010.

And that is something he is going to have to do if he is to avoid missing out again on elite events like last week’s Cadillac Championship.

The Irishman, whose last PGA Tour win was the 2008 PGA Championship, says he never lost faith in his ability.

“I pride myself on being very strong mentally, but you know, it’s frustrating when your World Ranking is slipping and I wasn’t playing Doral this year, and I didn’t play in the WGC Match Play either for the first time since they (WGC events) started,” said Harrington.

“It’s not like I could be working any harder or trying any harder, you just have to take it on the chin really. You feel like you’re good enough, but if your performances are not good enough, you have no one else to blame.”

“I had a strange last year, but I’m very comfortable where my game is at,” said Harrington, who is looking for his first victory on the PGA Tour since he won The Open and the PGA Championships in 2008.”

“For a long time now, I play better on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday than I do on the Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

“I’m trying to stay patient. I know my game is good. One of the hardest things is to wait with confidence.”

Harrington’s three closing birdies included a 74-footer for birdie on the 17th, the longest putt of his PGA Tour career by almost 10 feet.

“I would like to tell you it was funnelling right up the green and couldn’t go anywhere else,” Harrington said about the putt. “But certainly the last 15 feet it was right in the middle of the hole. That’s a bonus obviously.”

At the very opposite end of the scale Masters champion Charl Schwartzel inexplicably had a miserable day only week’s ahead of him having to defend his Masters title, finishing 4th from last all of 15 strokes back from the lead, while Sergio Garcia shot 68, Brian Davis a 69, Paul Casey, making a comeback after being sidelined with injury, a 70 and Martin Laird a 73.

(US unless stated, Par 71)
61 Padraig Harrington (Irl)
64 Will Claxton
66 Kenny Perry, Jim Furyk, Jason Dufner, John Senden (Aus), William McGirt, Jason Bohn, Cameron Tringale
67 Justin Rose (Eng), Luke Donald (Eng), Bryce Molder, Brendon De Jonge (Zim), Robert Garrigus, Joe Ogilvie, David Toms, Chris Couch, Stewart Cink, George McNeill