Harrington plays sublime round to lead Nedbank Challenge

2010-12-03 00:00

SUN CITY — Padraig Harrington evaded the media, who wanted to speak to him after his opening six-under-par 66 yesterday, and headed straight for the Nedbank Golf Challenge practice range instead of discussing his one-stroke lead.

There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with his game, but Harrington is nothing if not a notorious tinkerer.

His approach shot to the 18th was sublime, leaving him with an 18-incher for birdie — the only one of the day on the closing hole of the Gary Player Country Club.

He dropped just a single stroke in his round, with a bogey-five on the tough 17th, and more than compensated for that with a run of four successive birdies around the turn from eight to 11 — and that birdie on eight was also the only one of the day on that difficult hole.

While Harrington dropped a shot on 17, Ross Fisher who was in second after the opening round managed to drop two shots to rather spoil what was shaping up as a great round.

“It was just one of those things,” he said. “I was kind of in between driver and three-wood off the tee on 17.

“Unfortunately, I pulled it a little bit left. I took my medicine and chipped it out and thought I hit a really nice third in there. It just pitched firm and over, and unfortunately I didn’t get it up and down.”

Fisher had another dropped shot with his bogey four on the seventh, but world number one Lee Westwood managed a solid four-under-par 68 with just a single dropped shot on the sixth.

“I got a bit unlucky on the two par fives, the second and the 10th,” he said. “I hit what I thought were good drives and they just caught the edge of the traps. If they’d been two yards further right then I was in pole position on the holes.”

A lot of the players found the greens a little on the slow side, especially when they were going uphill and against the grain, but it didn’t stop Westwood feeling happy with his opening salvo in a bid to win a tournament he is playing for the seventh time and in which he lost in a play-off to Ernie Els in 2000.

“All in all, I’m quite pleased — 68 is a nice way to start,” he said.

Els started with nine consecutive pars, made his first birdie on 10, bogeyed 12, made two birdies in a row on 14 and 15 before dropping another shot on 18 to finish one-under in a share of seventh with Edoardo Molinari and Louis Oosthuizen.

Three-time European Tour winner Miguel Angel Jiménez was alone in fourth at three-under, while defending champion Robert Allenby shared fifth at two-under with Justin Rose.

Scores (RSA unless specified):

66 - Padraig Harrington (IRL)

67 - Ross Fisher (ENG)

68 - Lee Westwood (ENG)

69 - Miguel Angel Jiménez (ESP)

70 - Justin Rose (ENG), Robert Allenby (AUS)

71 - Edoardo Molinari (ITA), Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen

72 - Retief Goosen, Anders Hansen (DEN)

73 - Tim Clark.

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