Harrington back on course
Padraig Harrington took three weeks off, the longest break from golf in his 10 years as a pro, and worried that he wouldn't be very sharp yesterday at the
Harrington made two tough par putts early, then a bunch more putts for birdies on his way to a 6-under-par 66, giving him a one-shot lead over Vijay Singh and Jason Bohn on a day of ever-changing wind in Charlotte, N.C., that kept everyone on their toes.
"One mishit over here, it can cost you," Singh said.
Tiger Woods found that out on the 18th hole as he tried to stay in range of the leaders. He changed clubs when he felt the wind shift and still flew the green to take bogey and an opening round of 70.
"It was an 8 [iron] when the wind was off the right, then it became a 7 when the wind was in, then the wind went in off the left, then went down off the left, and when I hit, it was down off the right, when I thought it was in off the right," he said. "There you go."
And there it went.
The scoring was decent and the leaderboard eclectic, about the only common thread was it favored those with health issues.
During his three-week break after the Masters, Harrington had an early stage of skin cancer removed from his forehead and put his clubs down for a week, which is about as unusual as him taking a break.
Trevor Immelman lost 22 pounds from a parasite he picked up during the Masters and still isn't at full strength, although he managed a 68.
David Berganio Jr. went for a hike in the hills near his home in California and injured his back, but he shot 69.
About the only thing that mattered was trying to get through the tree-lined course without getting into too much trouble.
"You just have to play smart," said Singh, who won this tournament two years ago in a four-hole playoff.
Jeff Maggert was in the group at 68 after finishing with two straight birdies and one par that made him particularly proud, given how the wind began to blow hard in the afternoon. On the 491-yard ninth hole, he hammered a drive down the middle and still had a 2-iron to the green to 18 feet.
Stephen Ames, who will defend his title at The Players Championship next week, challenged for the lead until dropping shots on the 15th and 18th, both courtesy of the swirling wind, and was among those at 69.
Phil Mickelson got away with some shaky shots with his short game and shot 70, while defending champion Jim Furyk and Ernie Els were among those at 71.
Harrington wasn't sure what to make of his round.
"I've been well in control, knowing what's happening," he said. "Today wouldn't have been one of those rounds, I've got to say. It would be nice getting everything going together, holing putts and playing well."
European -- At Milan, Joakim Backstrom shot a course-record 10-under 62 at the Italian Open, coming within one stroke of matching the lowest round on the European Tour this season.
Backstrom broke the Castello di Tolcinasco course mark by a stroke and leads Markus Brier (63) by one.