Dream start for Harrington

Padraig Harrington, emerging from a winter when he made yet more changes to his golf game, had a dream start to his season today.

But even a seven under par 65 was not quite good enough for the lead after the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.



That distinction belonged to in-form South African Charl Schwartzel, who four days after retaining the Joburg Open shot 64 and is now a staggering 60 under for his last 13 rounds.



It might have been even better. The 26-year-old was eight under after 12 holes, but bogeyed the 17th before picking up another stroke at the par five last.



Harrington, without a European Tour victory since the 2008 US PGA Championship, had set the early pace helped by the luck of the Irish on the long eighth, his 17th.



The 39-year-old's chip for eagle hit the flag at speed and dropped in.



"It was a shock it went in at that pace," he admitted.



Lying third after rounds of 66 were Swede Alexander Noren and US Open champion and Ryder Cup hero Graeme McDowell, who in a spectacular run birdied the last five holes for an inward 30.



One further back were defending champion Martin Kaymer and England's Danny Willett, who still had three to play, while world number one Lee Westwood opened his year with a 69.



But Ian Poulter crashed to a 75 and was down near the rear of a star-studded field containing all four current major champions.



Among them, of course, was Masters champion Phil Mickelson, but on his Middle East debut the American had to settle for a 71 including only two birdies.



Constantly making adjustments to his swing, Harrington also has a new putting routine for the new campaign and just as important as the eagle was a closing 12-foot par putt after finding sand.



"The first putt of the day I was away with the fairies, but I made the most out of the round - another day that would have been 69," he said.



"One thing showed up in the States last year. I was about 156th in every putting category, so something needed to be done."



Harrington has never been one to leave any stone unturned in his quest to maximise his talent. His attention to detail has even included having the specific gravity of his urine measured on a regular basis to help compile a picture of his stress levels and dietary needs.



Westwood drove into the lake on the sixth for his only bogey, but was "delighted" overall.



"It's a course I battle with and it was nice to make that (15-foot) putt on the last - I felt I deserved to break 70," he commented before confirming that he will not be playing the Players Championship in Florida in May because of US Tour restrictions placed on him as a non-member.







McDowell survived a rules inquiry after his round, with European Tour senior referee Andy McFee judging that the Ulsterman's ball had oscillated but not moved as he addressed it before his pitch to the last.

His 66 stood as a result and Willett was alongside him after another birdie at the 17th, but the 23-year-old vicar's son from Yorkshire finished with a disappointing bogey six and slipped back to joint sixth.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable