Thursday, March 12, 2009

Padraig Harrington back in form with a six-under 66

Tiger Woods trails with uninspired

71 in WGC-CA Championship

Oliver Wilson missed a chance for a share of the lead at Doral with a disappointing final hole as Padraig Harrington made a welcome return to form at the WGC-CA Championship.
England's Wilson held a share of the opening round lead at seven under par as he played the par-4 443-yard 18th hole but landed his second shot in water short of the green on the way to a double-bogey six.
That left the 2008 Ryder Cup player with a first round 67 on day one of this 80-player, no-cut event, two shots back of the four clubhouse leaders Jeev Milka Singh of India, Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng, South African Retief Goosen and, late in the day left-hander Phil Mickelson, who each carded 65s on the par-72, 7,266-yard Blue Monster course at the Doral Resort & Country Club, Miami, Florida.
Mickelson had an early double bogey which seemed to confirm his early-season form. Then he caught fire with a bag of nine birdies, including one at the 18th to grab a share of the lead ... not only that, but he's six shots ahead of Tiger Woods after only 18 holes. Tiger's caddie Steve Williams had not liked that!
Mickelson still has his driving problems. He hit only 50 per cent of the fairways and he hit only 11 of the 18 greens in regulation. But his putting was out of this world ... only 20 of them which averages out at 16 single-putt greens and two putts each on the remaining two greens.
Ireland's Harrington, the Open and US PGA champion, bounced back from a first round WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship exit to Pat Perez two weeks ago and two missed cuts in his first four starts of the year prior to that.
The Irishman birdied three holes on his front nine and three more at the start of his inward nine to leave him at six under after 15 holes in a share of second place with American Nick Watney and Australia's Rod Pampling, who both posted 66s. Harrington duly finished on the 66 mark to be joint fifth, one shot off the pace.
Joining Wilson in the clubhouse on five under were Louis Oosthuizen and James Kingston of South Africa, American Sean O'Hair and Colombia's Camilo Villegas, who had begun his day in the worst possible way.
Villegas, a big crowd favourite in Miami, gave his Latin American fans palpitations with an awful start to his round at the par-five 10th, four-putting from the fringe of the green for a bogey 6 before making amends over the next 17 holes.
Rory McIlroy got off to a great start but saw his round unravel slightly on the back nine. The Northern Ireland 19-year-old, a quarter-finalist at the WGC-Accenture in his first Stateside tournament as a professional and tied for 13th place in last week's Honda Classic, eagled the first hole and was five under after 12 holes before bogeying the 13th and 14th. McIlroy hit back with a birdie 2 at the 16th and was four under with one to play.
Rory maintained that position, finishing with a 68.
World number one Tiger Woods continued his comeback from knee surgery but was not firing on all cylinders in a solid if unspectacular opening round. Woods, playing in his first stroke-play event in nine months, carded a two-bogey, three-birdie round of 71.
Luke Donald carded a three-under 69 to make light of his wrist injury scare at the WGC-Accenture Match Play two weeks ago and that score was matched by fellow-Englishman Ian Poulter. Paul Casey recovered from three over par after six holes to finish with a one-under round of 71, the same score as Ross Fisher.
Lee Westwood had started well, three under after 13 holes before being pegged back to one under for the round after bogeys at the 14th and 15th on his way to a 71, while fellow Englishman Richard Finch was in the clubhouse on level par.
When Henrik Stenson's tee ball found the mud on the par-4 third hole, his options were limited since he didn't pack any rain gear and didn't want to make a big number.
What option did Stenson choose? Stripping down to his underwear so as not to get his clothes full of mud. "I believe a photographer might have got some good shots," Stenson, who shot a 3-under 69, said. "Because of the mud, I couldn't really afford to play in any of my clothes as they would have been a real mess down the last six or so holes."
As for how he and caddie Fanny Sunesson came to the decision on how to hit the shot, the decision was all Stenson's.
"It wasn't quite like a club selection discussion," he said. "She didn't say 'I think you should take your shirt off' or anything like that or I should go for the Full Monty."
Stenson managed to get the shot out and eventually made a bogey, but not before providing a memorable photo op.
"I was only wearing two things when I hit the shot, my jocks and my golf glove, just the way God created me," he said. "After this I might have a new endorsement with PlayGirl or something."
Tiger Woods thought his 71 could have been a lot better, but he didn't seem too upset with it. He has had a similar start and gone on to win the event in the past.
"It wasn't like I hit bad putts," Woods said. "If I was struggling on the greens I would be a lot more frustrated. I hit good putts, they just didn't go in."
Woods missed four putts from inside 15 feet on the day.
"I need to be just a touch sharper," Woods added. "I hit the ball well all day today. If a few putts went in the score would be totally different.
"The [Accenture] Match Play [Championship] helped a lot to get into the competitive environment, to feel that again. Now playing stroke play, it really does feel like we just took three or four weeks off and here we are again."
Par 72. 7,266yd
Players from US unless stated

65 Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind), Phil Mickelson, Retief Goosen (Rsa), Prayad Marksaeng (Tha).
66 Nick Watney, Rodney Pampling (Aus), James Kingston (Rsa), Padraig Harrington (Irl).
67 Sean O'Hair, Andres Romero (Arg), Oliver Wilson (Eng), Camilo Villegas (Col), Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa).
68 Rory McIlroy (NIrl), Charley Hoffman, Jim Furyk
69 Steve Stricker, Rory Sabbatini (Rsa), Vijay Singh (Fij), Justin Leonard, Robert Allenby (Aus), Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spa), Boo Weekley, Ian Poulter (Eng), Luke Donald (Eng), Henrik Stenson (Swe)
70 Pat Perez, Garth Mulroy (Rsa), Zach Johnson, Davis Love III, Soren Kjeldsen (Swe), Peter Hanson (Swe), Kenny Perry, Dustin Johnson, Ernie Els (Rsa), Ryuji Imada (Jpn), Briny Baird, Shingo Katayama (Jpn), Richard Sterne (Rsa)
71 Dudley Hart, Tiger Woods, Ross Fisher (Eng), Adam Scott (Aus), Ben Curtis, Hunter Mahan, Paul Casey (Eng), Robert Karlsson (Swe), Anthony Kim, Mike Weir (Can), Ken Duke, Tim Clark (Rsa), Lee Westwood (Eng), Stuart Appleby (Aus)
72 Chad Campbell, Sergio Garcia (Spa), Richard Finch (Eng), Bubba Watson, Stephen Ames (Can), Alvaro Quiros (Spa)
73 Y E Yang (Kor), Justin Rose (Eng), Graeme McDowell (NIrl), K J Choi (Kor), Geoff Ogilvy (Aus), Martin Kaymer (Ger), Stewart Cink, Mark Brown
74 Thomas Aiken (Rsa), Trevor Immelman (Rsa), Soren Hansen (Den), Kevin Sutherland, Darren Clarke (NIrl), Carl Pettersson (Swe)
75 Aaron Baddeley (Aus), Billy Mayfair, Wen-Tang Lin (Tai)
76 John Rollins, Pablo Larrazabal (Spa).
77 Azuma Yano (Jap), D J Trahan.

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