Early eagle lifts Harrington
An eagle on a hole where he once took nine gave Padraig Harrington a superb start to The Masters at Augusta today.
The 40-year-old Dubliner is trying to break a hoodoo again this year after winning the curtain-raising par-three competition for a record third time.
And the chances of him doing it were certainly improved by a long drive down the 575-yard second and an approach which just carried the front nine and ran about eight feet past the flag.
Three years ago it had been a very different story. Harrington was Open and USPGA champion then, but his bid for a third successive major victory effectively ended in the third round when he got into all sorts of trouble after a bad drive left into trees and ran up a quadruple bogey.
Despite a slump since then to 96th in the world, his game is clearly not in terrible shape. He began the Transitions Championship in Florida three weeks ago with a career-low 61 and in the par-three competition covered the nine holes in a five-under-par 22.
That was matched by American Jonathan Byrd, but they were declared joint winners when the event was cancelled because of a thunderstorm.
Harrington did follow his eagle with a bogey at the difficult short fourth, however, and so was only sharing top spot with American trio Stewart Cink, Rickie Fowler and Kyle Stanley, Australian Aaron Baddeley and Japanese amateur Hideki Matsuyama, the only player in the first 33 to start with a birdie.
The action began at 7.40am local time with Gary Player joining Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer as honorary starters - and showing them what he is still capable of.
The 76-year-old South African followed 82-year-old Palmer onto the tee for a ceremonial opening drive and found the middle of the fairway some 250 yards away. It was around 50 yards further than Palmer and 72-year-old Nicklaus then split the difference between them.
With that the trio, who used to be known as golf's "Big Three" - they have 13 Masters titles between them - retired to the clubhouse and allowed the tournament proper to begin.