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
News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Text messaging changes as a relationship evolves
life
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Sport
Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid
football
News
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
Life and Style
food + drink
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

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?