Dubliner Padraig Harrington delighted the large crowds at the opening day of the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open when he shot the lowest ever round in his home national open, a sizzling 63 in the Lahinch sunshine moving the 2020 Ryder Cup Captain one shot clear of the field.
It was an incredible start to the second Rolex Series event of 2019, with Shane Lowry ramping up the Irish atmosphere early in the day by recovering from an early bogey to move right into contention with a four under 66.
A pair of former World Number Ones in Germany’s Martin Kaymer and Englishman Lee Westwood, as well as Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter, all joined Lowry on four under while reigning Italian Open champion Thorbjørn Olesen was one of seven players in a share of third on five under.
Thursday, however, certainly belonged to the three-time Major winner and former winner of this event, Harrington, as a run of five birdies in six holes around the turn helped him to a seven under par round and a one-stroke advantage over South Africa’s Zander Lombard, who birdied the final three holes late in the day for a six under 64.
Speaking after his round of 63, Harrington admitted:
“I had neutral expectations. At least that’s what I was going for. I’ve been playing all year trying to find my game. I’ve been struggling coming back after my wrist injury. You know, this week, I just decided I’d go and play and try and get stock on my game. That’s kind of been the feedback I’ve been getting from my team around me. Let’s go out and play and see where we’re at.”
The overnight leader was certainly surprised by his low opening round:
“I didn’t expect 63 out of it. I was expecting a few weeks to get my head in the game, and we could then get our bearings, but you know, it just goes to show, when your head is in the right place, especially on a links golf course because you can work your way around the links. I did a really good job of it today.”
The 2020 Ryder Cup captain added:
“Out there today, I was in a good place, my head was in a good place and good things were happening. I hit lots of nice shots. I know I don’t have to play as well as that for the next three days. It would be nice if I did, but we’ll just go out there and try and do more of the same. Whenever I step on a links golf course, I am going to be good value, and going forward, only a fool would discount me on a links course.”