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No easy Ryder for Padraig Harrington

The Irish public would be shocked but those competing regularly on the European Tour seem to be accepting Padraig Harrington could very well be overlooked for this year's Ryder Cup.

That's the view of fellow Irish-born colleague Peter Lawrie who has known Harrington ever since the pair were amateurs.

Lawrie birdied his last hole in a round of level par 72 that left him lying six strokes behind the leader, 2008 Irish Open winner Richard Finch of England, on day one of the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

It will be remembered that Finch captured sports video headlines around the globe when he accidently fell into Maigue River in playing his shot to the final green at Adare Manor.

Five players are at five under par while Paul McGinley is already well-placed at four under to be the leader among five Irish players in the field.

Lawrie arrived in Scotland buoyed by his share of second in last week's Czech Open when he came from eight strokes back at the start of the final day to force his way into a play-off with England's Gary Boyd and eventual champion Peter Hanson of Sweden.

However, after a first round that included three birdies, the 36-year-old Dubliner was asked his views on Harrington's chances of earning one of Colin Montgomerie's three picks.

“If it was me, I would pick Padraig but then there are an awful lot of rumours going around that he is not going to be picked,” said Lawrie.

“If so, then the general public in Ireland will be shocked but the guys who are out here competing, and hearing what I am hearing, won't be shocked.”

However the make-up of Monty's team is a little clearer with Italy's Francesco Molinari now assured of automatic selection following the withdrawal of England's Ross McGowan due to a shoulder injury.

McGowan, who withdrew after a 77, was lying three places away in 12th place on the points table and said he felt ‘gutted' to miss out on selection after having been among the automatic qualifiers for much of the past year.

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods yesterday provided the perfect advertisement for the single life when shooting a 65, his best score of the year. Three days after his divorce came through, Woods finally began to look like the world No 1 again when blazing a trail in the first round of The Barclays in New Jersey.

The performance was well-timed. Woods is currently ranked 112th on the FedEx Cup standings and needs to move up at least 12 places this week if he is to go forward to next week's second event of the play-off series. Furthermore, he needs to show some form to Corey Pavin, the US Ryder Cup captain, who names his four wild cards in 12 days' time.

Woods had fallen so low that he was actually in the first group to tee off at the Ridgewood Country Club yesterday. But he soon distanced himself from the FedEx backmarkers with four birdies in the first seven holes. From there he posted three further birdies to negate the bogey on the 12th.

“It's exciting to hit the ball flush like this again,” said Woods, sharing the clubhouse lead on six under alongside Vaughn Taylor. “It's something I've been missing.”

The work with Sean Foley, his new “unofficial” coach, is plainly paying dividends.

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