Harrington slips back

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Padraig Harrington shot a two-under-par 70 to be six strokes off the lead in the opening round of the Memorial tournament here on Thursday.

The Irishman, ranked No 7 in the world, enjoyed a run of four birdies in six holes between the second and seventh to complete the front nine in 32. However, dropped shots in successive holes at the par-three 12th and par-four 13th saw him slip back into the chasing pack.

Tiger Woods is in a seven-player group at five-under on his return to the PGA Tour after a six-week absence. Woods had knee surgery last December and has cut back on the number of events he plans to play this season, although he has still managed three victories in his six appearances so far.

"The greens are so perfect. It's warm enough; the ball is just flying forever," said Woods, clearly enjoying his first US event since the Masters.

Harrington has joined the PGA Tour as a Special Temporary Member for the rest of the season. "I haven't made up my mind about permanent membership on the PGA Tour," he said. "The problem for me is that it seems easy to play 10, 11, 12 events, but really difficult to play 15 events... and if I'm going to give it a go, you want to play 20 events."

Harrington would have to participate in at least 15 events each season were he to play the Tour full-time. He has earned $572,000 (£348,000) in four events on the Tour this year and is now eligible for unlimited sponsor exemptions for the remainder of 2003.

A 64 from Charles Howell III gave the American the lead while the Hemel Hempstead-born Luke Donald's round of 70 included three birdies and one bogey - a five at the 401-yard third.

The former European No 1 Lee Westwood had a real mixed round. Birdies on the first and fifth had put him two under playing the ninth, but a dropped shot on that par four was immediately recovered on the next hole, with a three on the 441-yard 10th. However, a double-bogey five at the 12th spoiled his previous good work and he finished with a level-par 72.

Memorial Tournament (Dublin, Ohio) Leading first-round scores (US unless stated): 64 C Howell III; 65 K Perry; 66 J Huston; 67 C Campbell, R Goosen (SA), L Janzen, B Faxon, V Singh (Fiji), T Woods, A Scott (Aus); 68 J Maggert, B Pappas (SA), J Furyk, W Austin, S McRoy, J Daly; 69 S Maruyama (Japan), S Verplank, B Tway, D Hart, M Calcavecchia, P Azinger, B Andrade, K Fergus, G Nicklaus. Selected: 70 J Parnevik (Swe), L Donald (GB), P Harrington (Irl), C Pettersson (Swe); 72 L Westwood (GB), T Immelman (SA); 73 J M Olazabal (Sp), E Els (SA), S Garcia (Sp); 79 B Langer (Ger); 88 A Larrazabal (Sp).