Harrington burns up Lahinch with NI's Sharvin in mix
A day after telling punters they would be better off backing him for the Open Championship rather than this week, Padraig Harrington carded his lowest round in the Irish Open at Lahinch.
Making his 24th consecutive appearance in the event, Harrington recorded eight birdies and a solitary bogey to establish a new course record of 63 and enjoy a two-shot lead at the top of a crowded leaderboard.
Eddie Pepperell marked his return from a seven-week injury-lay-off with a 65 to share second place with compatriot Lee Slattery, Thorbjorn Olesen, Wade Ormsby, Mike Lorenzo-Vera and Hyowon Park, with Lee Westwood, Shane Lowry, Martin Kaymer and Ian Poulter part of a large group on four under.
A broken wrist at the end of last year kept Harrington out of action until March and the three-time major champion started the week ranked 291st in the world after missing the cut in three of his last four events.
"I had neutral expectations. I just wanted to take stock of my game and did not expect a 63 but it was a bit of a stroll in the park. I've worked a lot harder to shoot 73, that's for sure," said the 47-year-old Ryder Cup captain, who shot rounds of 68-78 last year at Ballyliffin to miss the cut.
"It was buzzing out there and it would only be bettered if I did it on Sunday, but if you don't do something on Thursday you won't be around for Sunday anyway. All this does is create a number of scenarios where I can go on and win this tournament."
Ardglass professional Cormac Sharvin is the highest placed Ulster player, three behind Harrington.
The 26-year-old carded eight pars and a birdie on his opening nine before picking up four shots and a single bogey on the back for an impressive opening 66 - the same score as Shane Lowry.
That's well clear of the other two Northern Irishmen in the field as both Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke face a fight to make the cut.
Clarke carded a one over par 71 with McDowell a shot behind at two over.