Retief Goosen gate-crashed a private Irish party in the first round of the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open TPC of Europe at Gut Kaden, Hamburg, when his seven under par 65 was enough to share the lead with Padraig Harrington, two in front of Darren Clarke and Peter Lawrie and England’s Peter Baker.
The South African emerged from the pack late in the day to emulate the score of Harrington, who trimmed ten strokes off his last round in the Benson and Hedges International Open last Sunday when he was unable to convert a halfway lead into victory. Without Goosen’s intervention, the top of the leaderboard would have taken on a distinctly Irish flavour.
Harrington’s effort was all the more commendable for the fact that he played bogey-free golf in the company of World Number One, Tiger Woods, and outscored the reigning US Open Champion by a matter of four strokes.
The Dubliner – known affectionately to Woods as ‘Paddy’ – donned his working clothes to fashion a wonderful putting round, in complete contrast to his closing round at The De Vere Belfry, when a 75 left him in second place behind England’s Paul Casey.
“What a difference between rounds” said a nonplussed Harrington, whose putting woes of Sunday were replaced by the sort of unerring accuracy that only comes along every so often.
He explained: “It got to the stage out there that I didn’t even bother reading the putts. It didn’t seem to make a huge difference whether I read them well or read them badly, hit them well or hit them badly. They still went in. Golf’s a strange game. On Sunday I hit a whole lot of good putts and none of them went in.”
Harrington added: “A 65 is pretty good for the way I played. I really struggled off the tee but played to my strengths and used the three wood a lot. Today I did all the hard work with my wedges and putter. Driving-wise, I hardly hit a fairway.”
Goosen enjoyed a flying start to the tournament with three straight birdies to get quickly into the groove and four more during his round helped him draw level with Harrington, the player he pipped for the Volvo Order of Merit title at Valderrama last November.
Since then, Goosen has become a father to baby son, Leo, and taken more time off than is customary in order to enjoy parenthood. However he has not lost sight of his goals for the season, which include a tilt at a third successive Volvo Order of Merit title.
He said: “You always want to defend any title and obviously the Volvo Order of Merit title is the toughest one to defend because you’ve got to play well the whole year to try and win it.
“I am playing enough over here and if I play well enough I will try and give myself a chance by the end of the year. However I don’t think Monty’s (Colin Montgomerie’s) record of seven in a row will ever be broken. There are just too many good players out there now and competition is so strong.”
Lawrie, a Challenge Tour graduate last year and only beaten in a play-off for the Canarias Open de España a few weeks ago, continued to show an upward learning curve with a hat-trick of birdies from the 14th and another at the last on his way to a fine 67. Even more impressive was the run of four successive birdies recorded by Ryder Cup player, Peter Baker, to come home in 31, also for 67.
Also on 67 was Clarke, who took a putting tip from Lee Westwood and put it to good use during an eight-birdie card which also contained three bogeys. He said: “I shot 67 with 30 putts. I kept giving myself opportunities but got frustrated. Eventually on the back nine I made a few, thanks to Lee’s tip.
“He took some time out and gave me a lesson. He told me my left shoulder was moving out of the way too much and I practised with the new stroke for an hour and a half and the same again today. It feels right and I know it’s right but I am going to have to work on it.”
Woods, meanwhile, was complimentary to Harrington, after finishing four strokes behind him. He said: “He putted beautifully. He is more consistent than he used to be. His bad shots are not as bad as they were, and that’s something we are all trying to achieve. He’s worked pretty hard and is now showing the results of it.”
Scotland’s Raymond Russell holed in one with a four iron at the 14th on his way to a two under par 70.