Golf: Priority focused on Cup places

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The Independent Online
IRELAND'S PADRAIG Harrington kept his slim Ryder Cup hopes alive after the first round of the West of Ireland Classic yesterday.

Harrington is 16th in the Ryder Cup standings and needs a victory here and a good finish in the final qualifying event next week to make the team. He kept himself well in touch with the leaders on the picturesque course overlooking Galway Bay after the first day with an eventful finish.

An "appalling" drive into the water on the ninth - his 18th - looked set to cost him dearly before a brilliant one-iron to 20 feet helped him save par. "For the first 16 holes I would have been moaning about shooting a 69 but after two good saves in the last two holes I'm quite happy," the 27-year-old Dubliner said.

"After that appalling drive I certainly wasn't moaning. But up until the last two holes I only missed one green. After my lesson with Bob Torrance on Monday the bad shots aren't coming from my swing but from my head."

Harrington, who just missed out on qualification for the 1997 Ryder Cup, is three off the lead held by Elliot Boult of New Zealand who hit a six- under 66 to set a new course record.

The Danish trio of Soren and Anders Hansen (no relation) and Nils Rorbaek are a shot back on five under with 11 players on four under including Scotland's Stephen Gallacher, the English duo of Andrew Oldcorn and Gary Emerson and Ireland's Paul McGinley.

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