Harrington profits from head therapy

When Padraig Harrington put the phone down at one o'clock in the morning, he was not expecting the late-night conversation to lead to results overnight. Yet a first round of 66 put Harrington on top of the leaderboard at the Linde German Masters here by one from Alex Cejka.

The person on the other end of the phone was Bob Rotella, the sports psychologist. Rotella was hardly expecting a two-hour session but then he did not realise how timely his call from the States was. Harrington had included in his packing for the week Rotella's book, Golf is Not a Game of Perfect.

"I've been having a bit of an inquest at home," Harrington explained. "There has been a lot of gnashing of teeth. Everyone in my inner circle was putting in their tuppence." That meant coach Bob Torrance, wife Caroline and his father.

What prompted the soul-searching was missing the cut in Munich a fortnight ago. Harrington has not won this year, but it is not that he has played particularly poorly. Just that his results have not been as consistent as expected.

"I have worked a lot on my technique this year and feel I have been swinging well on the range," he said. "But I haven't taken that on to the course. I found it difficult to accept a poor shot. Today my attitude was a lot better."

So was his putting following laser surgery on his left eye last Saturday. The Irishman rejected the idea that such an operation so close to the Ryder Cup was a risk. "Being average doesn't cut it on tour," he said. "If I have to take a risk to get better eyesight, that's fine." If Bernhard Langer, the European captain, could have asked for one thing here, it would have been for Harrington to come good.

Not that Harrington, himself, was concerned by his form, despite what the impression might be. "No, no, I wasn't worried," he said. "And next week will have to wait now. After that score, the German Masters is the most important thing. The next three days will be tougher than today."

Paul Casey, shot a 68 on a windy morning at Gut Lärchenhof, while Thomas Levet and Darren Clarke were also under par. Colin Montgomerie missed too many fairways but more worrying were the 73 of Miguel Angel Jimenez and the 76s of Ian Poulter and Paul McGinley. Poulter bogeyed five of the last six holes in a most unhappy finish.

Ian Woosnam never got to the finish as he walked off the ninth, his last hole. The Welshman found the pond on the right with his second shot. He had to drop on a steep, and closely-shaved bank, and as he was about to hit the shot, the ball rolled down into the lake.

In frustration, Woosie had a couple of whacks at it in the water before giving up. "I might have got an eight out of it but I wasn't in the mood to carry on," said Woosnam.

Leaving nothing to chance next week, Langer's mum has provided the recipe for his favourite black forest gateau to be served on the flight to Detroit on Monday. A special game pie will also be on the menu, which will contain English rabbit, Scottish venison and German wild boar. It will be flamed in Irish whiskey, and cooked in Spanish Rioja with a hint of French garlic. "I'll eat anything," said Harrington.

German Masters (Cologne) Leading first-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 66 P Harrington. 67 A Cejka (Ger). 68 G Owen; P Casey; R Green (Aus); R Jacquelin (Fr); N O'Hern (Aus); L Oosthuizen (Sa). 69 G McDowell; J M Olazabal (Sp); A Wall; B Lane; G Murphy; R Muntz (Neth). 70 R J Derksen (Neth); T Immelman (Sa); M Farry (Fr); D Geall; T Levet (Fr); P Broadhurst; A Forsyth; A Cabrera (Arg). 71 B Rumford (Aus); D Clarke; P O'Malley (Aus); G Orr; R Russell; C Schwartzel (Sa); K J Choi (S Kor); K Eriksson (Swe); S Hansen (Den); E Simsek (Ger); T Gögele (Ger). Selected: 73 B Langer (Ger); C Montgomerie. Disqualified I Woosnam

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