From Brian Keogh at The European Club
Padraig Harrington overcame a hip injury scare to grab a share of the first round lead in the Irish Professional Championship at The European Club.
Just a week after struggling with a knee injury at The K Club, the Dubliner ended up flat on his back on the ninth fairway at the Brittas Bay links after popping his hip out of joint.
But after putting himself through a series of hip flexor exercises, the world number 10 went on to fire a two-under par 69 that was good enough to top the leaderboard with Challenge Tour winner Michael Hoey and Headfort professional Brendan McGovern.
And he insisted that his latest injury scare will be completely forgotten when he tees it up in next week’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
"My right hip just locked up," Harrington said. "It's never happened to me before - well maybe running off a football pitch - but never on the course. I just couldn't stand on it after my tee shot.
"When I got over the ball I realised I couldn't actually support my backswing. It was like I got a dead leg or something like that. But the more I walked the better I got."
Harrington's regular physiotherapist Dale Richardson is at the Scottish Open but the Dubliner last night sought out Tallaght-based Alan Kelly for treatment and insisted that his latest niggle will not be a factor at Carnoustie.
He added: "There is no concern on my hip. None at all for a week's time. None whatsoever. It is the same as someone feeling stiff after getting out of the car or waking up wrong. It is not a problem."
With no wind to trouble him, went to the turn in one-over par, erasing a facile birdie at the first with bogeys at the seventh and the ninth.
But with the wind freshening slightly on the back nine, he birdied three of the next four holes, holing putts of 15 and 18 feet at the 10th and 12th before two-putting the par-five 13th to move to two-under par.
Lack of focus is something that has bothered Harrington since his Irish Open success and he was annoyed to put his three-wood tee shot in a fairway trap at the 15th for his final bogey.
An eight-iron to 15 feet at the 17th helped him break 70 and finish the day alongside McGovern and Hoey at the top of the leaderboard.
But he was nonetheless upset by a series of mental errors, especially his bogey at the 15th where he talked himself out of hitting an “easy” three wood.
"I putted well but I lost focus a number of times," Harrington said. "It is bringing it home to me that I have got to be more settled over the ball. I am losing track of what I am trying to do. I have got to get it right this week if it is going to be right next week."
Joint leaders Hoey and McGovern declared themselves happy with their driving after some recent struggles while four-time champion Philip Walton signed for a one-under par 70 left was good enough for a share of fourth place with British Open qualifier David Higgins, Corkman Michael Collins and Dubliner Noel Fox.
Higgins was happy with his score after his heroics at Downfield on Monday and Tuesday and his late arrival in Wicklow.
Despite the fact that he did not get to bed until 1.15 am and had to play the course blind, the Waterville man still managed three birdies and just two bogeys alongside Harrington and defending champion David Mortimer.
Higgins said: "I hit a few loose shots but a 70 is alright and I am still in there. Probably not knowing the course cost me a couple of shots as well because I last played here around six or seven years ago.
“I am not that tired but I could do with a few hours rest. I didn't get to my room until 1.15 pm. The Open? I can't wait. But this is great and I am trying to win it as well. It is great playing with Padraig. It is all going well for me.”