Padraig Harrington started The 2003 International Schedule in much the same vein as he finished last season with a flawless opening round of 66, six under par, in the BMW Asian Open to lie one shot off the lead at the Ta Shee Golf and Country Club in Taiwan.
Harrington was joined by Dutchman Maarten Lafeber and Germany’s Sven Strüver in the group one adrift of India’s Jyoti Randhawa. Defending champion Jarmo Sandelin is in the group of five players a further stroke back after opening his defence of the title with a five under par 67.
Harrington, who finished second in the 2002 Volvo Order of Merit behind Retief Goosen, reached the turn in 32 after picking up four birdies on his outward half. Two more at the 14th and 15th left him just one stroke behind Randhawa in the tournament co-sanctioned by The European Tour and the Asian PGA-run Davidoff Tour.
“I am obviously pleased, more pleased with the three birdies in the first six holes. The weather was bad … it was raining, it was blowing. When you make a few birdies in these conditions, you see that it’s possible to do it.
“I had 18 birdie putts out there and holed six of them. You’ve got to be pleased with that. But I’m not going to have any expectations. I’m not surprised to see an Asian leading because when we come over here, we look at
how good they really are but wonder why they don’t have a higher profile on the world scene,” said Harrington, who is ranked world number eight
Lafeber, who has previously shown his liking for Asia by finishing joint third in the 2001 Caltex Singapore Masters, picked up seven birdies with just the one dropped shot in his 66 while Strüver, like Harrington, did not drop a shot.
Randhawa, the 30-year-old former Singapore Open champion, picked up six birdies and an eagle over the testing 7,101-yard course to set the early pace.
Sandelin meanwhile, who enjoyed a thrilling one-shot victory over Jose Maria Olazabal and Thongchai Jaidee last year, was hoping to swell his bank balance in time for his marriage next month to girlfriend Linda, and he made a fine start with his five-under round.
American John Daly made a solid start with three birdies and an eagle in a two-under 70, a score matched by Ryder Cup hero Paul McGinley, although his round was somewhat marred by a double-bogey six at the ninth - his final hole.