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Padriag Harrington off to slow start in Bahrain

If Padraig Harrington's year got off to a false start in Abu Dhabi last week, the Dubliner got caught in the traps at the Volvo Golf Champions yesterday.

A first-round 70 at the Royal Golf Club of Bahrain left him six off the pace set by a course-record 64 from Sweden's Johann Edfors.

Controversially disqualified in Abu Dhabi after an opening 65, Harrington found himself being extra careful as to how he marked and replaced his ball a couple of times yesterday.

However, he was knocked out of kilter on several occasions by a local rule, which allows the 100 competitors in the field to break with usual practice in golf and ground their clubs in bunkers.

In fact, in his rules notice issued before the tournament, chief referee Andy McFee categorically stated: “There are no bunkers on this course. There are only waste areas.”

Sounds pretty straightforward, but when players spend their entire career being careful not to ground the club or take full-blown practice swings in sand, it's very difficult and disconcerting to break that habit -- especially when some of the 'traps' look exactly like bunkers and have rakes lying beside them.

Harrington didn't rack up any penalties yesterday, but his discomfort playing out of the sand certainly didn't help on a blustery day in which he struggled generally for focus and composure.

“When I was marking my ball on the greens I thought a couple of times about what happened last week in Abu Dhabi,” the 39-year-old admitted.

“But the biggest distraction out there was being able to ground my club in a bunker. It completely upset my routine for bunker shots. You don't know what to do.”

As the wind whipped up in the afternoon, transforming the 7,224-yard course into a real championship challenge, Harrington's Italian playing companion Francesco Molinari purred around in 66, good enough for a share of second place with Pablo Larrazabal of Spain, another Swede Peter Hanson and England's Graeme Storm.

l Leona Maguire lead the Portuguese Championship by two shots from Karlijn Zaanen of the Netherlands after a six-under par round yesterday.

Her sister Lisa shot a 1-under round of 71 and is tied fifth while fellow Irish players Gillian O'Leary, Emma O'Driscoll and Charlene Reid all carded a first round score of 75.

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