Nedbank Golf Challenge
NGC: Shy Paddy opens with 66
Irishman Padraig Harrington. (Gallo)
Sun City – Popular Irishman Padraig Harrington evaded the media who wanted to speak to him after his opening six-under-par 66 on Thursday 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.
But 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.
And while Harrington dropped a shot on 17, Ross Fisher, who was in second place 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,” he said, “the second and the 10th. 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 playoff 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 Open champion 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