Harrington eyes glory in the Linde German Masters|
A week after Luke Donald gave a boost to Europe’s Ryder Cup hopes with victory in the Omega European Masters, Padraig Harrington was the next Member of Bernhard Langer’s Team to give the Captain good cause for optimism when he moved into the lead after the first round of the Linde German Masters.
The Irishman, who missed the cut in the BMW International Open on his last European Tour outing, enjoyed a happier return to Germany, a fine six under par 66 at Gut Lärchenhof giving him a one shot lead over home favourite Alex Cejka.
Harrington was clearly well focused on the golf course in more ways than one, as he revealed that he had undergone the second phase of laser eye surgery on his left eye only five days ago back home in his native Dublin.
“I had it done four years ago and it was a couple of months ago it was pointed out that it wasn’t quite as sharp as it had been,” he said. “So I went back and had another consultation at home and had my left eye lasered – I will have the other one lasered in time but I just didn’t have enough time to get it done this weekend.
“The one thing certainly I don’t want as a golf professional is average. I am quite prepared to take a risk to get past average. So if I had average eyesight and somebody told me I could have better eyesight, I’d jump at the better eyesight.
“You are always looking for that little bit more – average just doesn’t cut it on the Tour, you are always looking to get that little bit more.”
Certainly Harrington got that little bit more out of the Gut Lärchenhof course than any of his fellow competitors, taking seven birdies in total from a course which saw a course record 60 carded by Fredrik Jacobson in the first round last year, but which has been toughened up for this year’s event.
Birdies at the second and third holes saw the Irishman to the turn in 34 before another pair of successive birdies at the tenth and 11th saw him move to four under par. His charge was halted slightly when a poor drive into the trees at the 13th led to a bogey six, but he recovered manfully with three further birdies in four holes from the 14th.
One shot behind after an opening 67 was the man who carried the bulk of the large gallery’s backing, Alex Cejka. The German started in sensational fashion with birdies at each of the first three holes.
He rattled in three more birdies in four holes from the 12th which more than made up for his only dropped shot of the day at the 439 yard sixth hole before admitting that missing out on a Ryder Cup place had given him the impetus to move forward.
“Obviously it was disappointing not to be picked for the Ryder Cup and although I thought I had a chance, I also had a feeling that it wouldn’t be me,” he said. “However, that has made me more determined to go forward and try and win here because it is always good to see your name up on the leaderboard in your own country.”
Pursuing the leading duo were a group of six players who all ended their rounds on 68 including another man who will stand tall for Europe next week at Oakland Hills, namely England’s Paul Casey, who finished alongside Richard Green, Raphaël Jacquelin, Nick O’Hern, Luis Oosthuizen and Greg Owen.
“It’s nice to be playing well and driving it well,” said Casey. “I don’t know Oakland Hills but from everything the guys have told me, you have to drive it well and you have to putt well, typical US Open type of course so the focus is very much on this week.
“I wasn’t nervous at all but I did an interview with Radio Five on Monday and that was all that they talked about, the Ryder Cup, and then it suddenly dawned on me when they played Ryder Cup montage footing, then you suddenly start to realise what you are representing.
“I think that is the thing that gets you. Your team-mates are very important but the daunting bit is the fact that you are representing the general public of Europe and everyone’s hopes.”
Further down the leaderboard, Ryder Cup Captain and tournament promoter Bernhard Langer had an up and down day, reaching the turn in one over par 37, birdieing the 12th and 15th to get back to one under for the day before finishing with two bogeys in his last three holes for an opening one over par 73.
“It was a little disappointing day for me because I played well from tee to green but I didn’t hole any putts at all,” said Langer. “On the last I had the wrong club and went through the back of the green to make bogey which is never a nice way to finish.
“However it was nice to see some of my team up there challenging for the lead, especially Padraig, although it was also good to see Alex Cejka up there too for I know what it means to him to do well in his home country.”
By courtesy of http://www.europeantour.com