Harrington has home fans in a frenzy on way to course-record 63

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport | Football - By James Cor­ri­gan GOLF COR­RE­SPON­DENT Leader: Padraig Harrington’s round was his low­est in 24 years at the Ir­ish Open

As the brother of a book­maker, Padraig Harrington should know plenty about odds and the value in pick­ing value out­siders. Yet when he was told by friends that they had backed him at 100-1 for this week’s Ir­ish Open, he laughed.

“You should have waited un­til the Open up in Portrush in a fort­night’s time,” Harrington told them. “I might have played my­self into a bit of form by then.” Hope­fully, Harrington’s pals did not rip up their bet­ting slips, be­cause with a course-record 63 at Lahinch, the 48-year-old ranked 291st in the world is the first-round leader with a two-shot cush­ion.

This is his low­est round in 24 years of play­ing his na­tional cham­pi­onship and with the sun beam­ing on the Co Clare links and the crowd out in huge num­bers – most of them fol­low­ing Harrington, it seemed – it was a great Thurs­day sight.

“If only this was Sun­day,” Harrington said with a laugh to play­ing part­ner Ian Poul­ter (66) as they walked off the 18th green to rap­tur­ous ap­plause. In fair­ness, lit­tle in Harrington’s re­cent re­sults pointed to him stag­ing this seven-un­der mas­ter­class, with four missed cuts in his last five events. Ap­pointed Europe’s Ry­der Cup cap­tain in De­cem­ber, he came into 2019 not only with other things on his some­times com­plex mind, but also re­cov­er­ing from a bro­ken wrist that was to keep him out un­til March.

Yet, some­thing happens to this two-time Open cham­pion when he is by the sea­side. “I didn’t know what to ex­pect be­cause I haven’t played much due to the wrist prob­lem,” Harrington said.

“But I love links golf and I got back into the groove of play­ing this type of game much quicker than I could have imag­ined.”

The highlight came on the eighth when he holed from off the green with an out­ra­geous curl­ing ef­fort. Surely pan­de­mo­nium would fol­low? How­ever, with the gal­leries un­able to get within 50 yards of the tucked-away green, there was only si­lence. Harrington took off his hat and whipped up the fans into a frenzy they were never to shake off all af­ter­noon.

“It’s funny, I en­cour­aged them to cheer there on the front nine, and ended up try­ing to calm them down,” Harrington said.

On five un­der par stand a group in­clud­ing Eng­land’s Ed­die Pep­perell and Lee Slat­tery, while Lee Westwood joined fel­low vet­eran Poul­ter on four un­der, cour­tesy of four birdies in his last six holes.

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