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Dream start for Harrington

Padraig Harrington, emerging from a winter when he made yet more changes to his golf game, had a dream start to his season on Thursday.

But even a seven-under-par 65 was not quite good enough for the lead after the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

That distinction belonged to in-form South African Charl Schwartzel, who four days after retaining the Joburg Open shot 64 and is now a staggering 60 under for his last 13 rounds.

It might have been even better. The 26-year-old was eight under after 12 holes, but bogeyed the 17th before picking up another stroke at the par-five last.

Harrington, without a European Tour victory since the 2008 US PGA Championship, had set the early pace helped by the luck of the Irish on the long eighth, his 17th.

The 39-year-old's chip for eagle hit the flag at speed and dropped in.

"It was a shock it went in at that pace," he admitted.

Lying third after rounds of 66 were Swede Alexander Noren, US Open champion and Ryder Cup hero Graeme McDowell - who in a spectacular run birdied the last five holes for an inward 30 - and Niclas Fasth.

One further back were defending champion Martin Kaymer and England's Danny Willett, while world number one Lee Westwood opened his year with a 69.

But Ian Poulter crashed to a 75 and was down near the rear of a star-studded field containing all four current major champions. Among them, of course, was Masters champion Phil Mickelson, but on his Middle East debut the American had to settle for a 71 including only two birdies.


From Belfast Telegraph