Sat, Aug 08, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Harrington finds top form to seize Bridgestone lead

AFP , AKRON, OHIO

Padraig Harrington of Ireland plays his approach shot on the eighth hole during the first round of the Bridgestone Invitational on Thursday at the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.

PHOTO: AFP

Ireland’s Padraig Harrington carded his lowest score of the year, a bogey-free six-under par 64, to grab a two-stroke lead after Thursday’s opening round of the Bridgestone Invitational.

Harrington, who defends his PGA Championship title next week, took advantage of relatively benign afternoon conditions to reel off six birdies in the US$8.5 million World Golf Championships event at Firestone Country Club.

South African Tim Clark, American Scott Verplank and Thai Prayad Marksaeng were equal second on 66 while world No. 1 Tiger Woods, a six-time winner here, did himself no harm with a 68.

Harrington, last year’s British Open and PGA Championship winner, has been mired in a slump for most of this season while tinkering with his swing, so his good start was obviously a step in the right direction.

However, the Irishman refused to assign too much significance to it.

“It has no relevance in the overall scheme of things,” he said. “It’s just a round of golf. It shouldn’t affect how I feel about my game at any stage going forward. It doesn’t change the last six months and it won’t change the next six months.”

Clark, meanwhile, expressed approval with the course set-up, particularly the rough, which is less penal than in some previous years.

“I used to get quite frustrated around here because I’d hit a lot of good tee shots and ball would just kick into the rough,” he said. “The way the rough is now, you can just miss the fairways and still have a chance to get it up around the green. I did have a couple of three-putts, but I still feel like I putted fairway well.”

Woods wasn’t at his sparkling best, but he managed his game well enough to record just one bogey and end the day equal eighth.

“I hit a couple of bad shots starting out, and got it back in the middle part of the round,” Woods said. “I hit some good shots on the back nine. Some of the things I was working on Monday and Tuesday at home I put together for a little bit in stretches.”

Englishman Paul Casey pulled out after six holes with a pulled muscle below his rib cage, cutting the field to 79 players. He received US$35,250 that will not count on the official money list.

■RENO-TAHOE OPEN

AFP, RENO, NEVADA

Aussie Rod Pampling fired a five-under 67 to seize a one-shot lead after the opening round of the US$3 million PGA Reno-Tahoe Open on Thursday.

Pampling rolled in four birdies on the back nine to lead a group of seven players, including Vaughn Taylor who has won here twice. Marc Leishman of Australia and Kiwi Grant Waite also shot four-under 68.

Pampling said Thursday’s high winds added to the challenge.

“There would be some times when you would hit a shot and have absolutely no wind. A minute later it’s 20 miles an hour again,” Pampling said.

“So it was kind of bizarre how it would be blowing so strong and then just totally stop. And then it would go a different way and then stop. Go a different way and stop,” he said. “It was hard work. Myself and my caddie were definitely working overtime making sure we got the right club.”

Former PGA Championship winners Paul Azinger, Steve Elkington and Shaun Micheel led a group of nine players at three-under 69. Defending Reno Open champ Parker McLachlin also shot 69 at the Montreux Golf and Country Club course.

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