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Padraig Harrington fires himself into the early title picture

 

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Real chance: Padraig Harrington can go low with an early start today

Real chance: Padraig Harrington can go low with an early start today

Real chance: Padraig Harrington can go low with an early start today

European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington is four shots off the lead after the opening day of the Scottish Championship at Fairmont St Andrew's.

The 49-year-old, who is competing in his fourth straight event since returning at the Irish Open at Galgorm Castle, fired an excellent six-under-par 66 in his opening round to put himself in the mix, with Spain's Adrian Otaegui leading on 10 under.

Northern Ireland's Jonathan Caldwell (Clandeboye) opened with a two-under-par 70 at St Andrew's, while Cormac Sharvin (Ardglass) is two over.

Three-time Major winner Harrington was on form, dropping just one stroke and adding seven birdies in his Thursday round, and is sitting tied-fourth, well placed to set a low score in the clubhouse with an early tee time this morning.

But the best round of the day was Otaegui's phenomenal bogey-free 62, which has him three clear of South Africa's Bryce Easton and England's Matt Wallace after 18 holes.

The Spaniard started as he meant to go on, birdieing his opening three holes and adding seven more on his way around, including back-to-back birdies to finish at the 17th and 18th.

Caldwell had started his round poorly, teeing off from the 10th and making bogeys at the 13th and 15th, but he found his groove with a birdie on 18 and gained further shots at the first, fourth and fifth to card a 70.

It was the opposite for Sharvin, who found himself two under after 10 holes but carded back-to-back bogeys and then a double bogey at the 15th to go over par, eventually signing for a 74.

Meanwhile, there was disappointment for Northern Ireland duo Tom McKibbin (Holywood) and Brendan McCarroll (West Cliff Golf Links, Portugal) as they both missed the cut at the Final Stage of Qualifying School for the PGA EuroPro Tour.

The pair both shot level-par 73s in their second rounds at Studley Wood Golf Club in England which, combined with their level-par first rounds from the Oxfordshire, was not enough to qualify for today's final round, with the cut two under.

It's not all doom and gloom for the pair, however, as both will achieve category 14 status for the 2021 season, which should grant them invites to a few events each.

Seven Irishmen progressed to the final round, which will also be played at Studley Wood, with Galway's Ronan Mullarney best positioned in a tie for seventh at eight under par, while Conor O'Rourke (The K Club) and Stuart Grehan are also inside the top 30 that will receive category three status for the 2021 season.

Belfast Telegraph