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Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell sizzle in desert heat


Graeme McDowell on his way to third place in Abu Dhabi yesterday after a round of 66.

Graeme McDowell on his way to third place in Abu Dhabi yesterday after a round of 66.

Scott Halleran

Graeme McDowell on his way to third place in Abu Dhabi yesterday after a round of 66.

Given the startling amount of work he did on the mechanics of his golf game during his mid-winter break, Padraig Harrington probably should have left a trail of nuts and bolts behind him on the course at Abu Dhabi yesterday.

Yet the Dubliner didn't even drop a shot, instead picking up five birdies and an eagle in a remarkable 65 — the best score he has posted in the opening round of a new season since turning professional in 1995.

Prompted to make upwards of 20 changes to his swing and his pre-putting routine by the frustrations he encountered on the golf course in 2010, Harrington says with a grin: “I'd a pretty good six weeks.”

Graeme McDowell finished his opening round with five birdies to lie two shots behind leader Charl Schwartzel. The Portrush man carded a birdie and a bogey on his front nine and then registered birdies at the 10th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th holes.

McDowell is one of three players tied for third on six under with Harrington second on seven under.

Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Gareth Maybin are all one under.

McIlroy recorded an eagle at the second hole and fired two birdies and three bogeys during the remainder of his round of 71.

Clarke had four birdies and three bogeys in his 18 holes and Maybin recorded three birdies and two bogeys.

But it was Harrington who really caught the eye yesterday as he got back to his very best.

From dawn to dusk and often long into the early hours, Harrington has been working on his game and yesterday when he explained the dizzying number of alterations, the official transcript stretched to 4,666 words.

The way Harrington tells it, if Old Trafford is the ‘Theatre of Dreams', then the European Tour is an arena for eccentrics. He actually insists that many of his fellow professionals on the practice range at this week's HSBC Championship are as committed to the pursuit of perfection as he is.

“I have actually seen more guys lose their Tour card by doing too much than guys lose their card by doing too little,” he claimed.

Nobody, not even the legendary Fijian workaholic Vijay Singh, takes it to the same level as Ireland's three-time Major Champion.

“I'm complicated, not eccentric,” Harrington, 39, insisted. “The day I don't have something to work on, I probably won't be as excited to get up in the morning to go out and practice.”


Davis Love was overcome with emotion within minutes of being confirmed as the United States' Ryder Cup captain yesterday.

Love was unable to hold back the tears when asked how proud his late father would be of his appointment.

The 46-year-old lost his father in a plane crash in 1988 and said: “This is a thrill I never thought I would have and I would love to share it with him.

After being confirmed as Corey Pavin's successor he added: “I am a players' captain and I'm going to get them what they need to be successful.”

Belfast Telegraph