Harrington off to a flier in Hong Kong

Padraig Harrington made his presence felt in the opening round of the Omega Hong Kong Open today.

Along with Ryder Cup teammates David Howell and Miguel Angel Jimenez, defending champion Harrington came in with five under par rounds of 65 to share the early clubhouse lead by a stroke from France’s Gregory Havret.

Harrington won with an 11 under total last year and was delighted not only with setting a pace which, if maintained, will smash that, but also saw him keep a bogey off his card.

“It’s no big deal to be leading after the first day, but you want to be there or thereabouts because you can always play yourself out of the tournament on the Thursday,” said the world number six.

“It’s a nice start just to keep the adrenaline and the focus going. The wind was swirling a bit at the end, but I made three of my birdies in the last six holes.”

Harrington pitched to eight and six feet on the fourth and seventh, then struck a four iron to 10 feet for a closing birdie at the 474-yard ninth, probably the toughest hole on the course.

Howell, in his last chance to register a victory this season, was also bogey-free, but admitted he “got out of jail” on the ninth.

He was thinking five iron for his second shot, but his caddie recommended a five wood and, according to the Swindon golfer, was “absolutely way out”.

It went 40 yards past the flag into the trees, but from there he not just saved par, but pitched into the hole for birdie. It completed an inward four under 30.

Ian Poulter, the other member of September’s side taking part, was among the later starters and level par after eight. Nick Faldo was on the same mark, while last week’s Volvo China Open champion Stephen Dodd was one under after eight.

Harrington is the favourite, but there was a case for making that Jimenez, who was joint second when both played in South Korea last week and has won four times in 2004 compared to the Dubliner’s once.

The 40-year-old Spaniard’s record in Asia this year is first, sixth, first and second. “I like it here – nice people, nice weather, nice food,” he said.

“I feel in a good mood on the course, but I am a bit tired. I have this and next week (the Target World Challenge in California where Harrington will also be again) and inside I’m looking forward to a rest.”

On Jimenez, Harrington commented: “He’s very comfortable with himself. You look at him and he has self-belief in what he’s doing, but not in a cocky way. It’s what we aspire to and it’s good to see.”

Going best of the afternoon half was Philippe Lima, who for the season which started last week in Shanghai has switched from being French to Portuguese.

He had five threes in his first six holes, one for eagle and two for birdies to join Havret on four under.

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