Padraig Harrington was delighted to use all his links expertise as he made an excellent start to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation.
The home favourite had huge crowds following him at the fourth Rolex Series event of the season and he did not disappoint the fans, carding a four under par 68 to leave himself well positioned heading into the rest of the week.
With two Claret Jugs and two Alfred Dunhill Links Championship titles to his name, the 46 year old knows a thing or two about playing on the coast and he used all that experience at Ballyliffin Golf Club.
The 15-time European Tour winner bogeyed the 15th but chipped in for eagle on the 17th before adding birdies on the fourth and sixth, and playing a stunning tee-shot into the par three seventh.
“It definitely plays into my strengths,” he said. “I think a lot of times, a lot of tournaments I play now would be the opposite. The whole field plays it a certain way and maybe the most orthodox player tends to have an advantage, which I suppose is right, but when it comes to links golf that's not the case.
“There's so many ways to play it, play a hole out there. You can carry trouble, lay up short of trouble, you can play to one side where you know even if you're in the rough you know you're okay. There's just a lot going on.
“And I don't fully know this golf course so I'm really relying on my links experience rather than my local knowledge. But it can catch you out, too, don't worry, it does. It doesn't always go as well as it went today but it certainly plays more into my hands on a links course.”
Harrington felt his links experience may have been overlooked by some in the build-up to this event but he was pleased with how he played as he looked to prove some of the doubters wrong and claim a first European Tour win since the 2016 Portugal Masters.
“I saw some good stuff,” he said. “I wasn't as good as I would have liked to have been in the left-to-right wind, I was afraid of pulling it. You could have anything going on in your head and have the same sort of thoughts.
“There was some good and bad but on a links golf course you could get away with that at times and I knew I could create some opportunities out there. Thankfully, my short game was good enough to handle the odd bad shot and I hit plenty of good ones.”
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