Brian Keogh in Tucson
Padraig Harrington has spent nearly as much time in bed as he has on the range this week but the showed few signs of fatigue as he crushed Jerry Kelly 4 and 3 with a combination of power and finesse at The Gallery Golf Club on the outskirts of Tucson.
On a day when Paul Casey shot nine under par but could only beat Robert Karlsson 2 up, Harrington drove the ball brilliantly and putted like an angel to see off the dogged Wisconsin man without having to break much sweat.
Big hitting American Stewart Cink - his nemesis at the same stage last year- awaits Harrington in today’s second round.
But the Dubliner was erring on the side of caution when asked about his unusually rich vein of early season form and explained that he is still far from 100 percent following his bout of shingles last month.
“I am not 100 percent confident or 100 percent sharp that I feel relaxed enough for tomorrow’s round that I’ll produce the exact same form,” said Harrington, who had a two hour afternoon nap and then went to bed at 9.30 in preparation for his 4.50 am alarm clock call and 8.08 am tee time.
“I am just trying to recover and I'm in bed all the time. When I go to the gym, I feel like I have just done the hardest work out in the world. It’s not the cold I had, it’s the effects of having the shingles.”
Still, he showed few ill effects as he produced seven birdies and dropped just one stroke in defeating Kelly in 15 holes yesterday. And he felt that the key to his match was his 20 footer for birdie at the sixth rather than his obvious advantage off the tee.
“There are opportunities out there - some reachable par-fives and some reachable par-fours. There are plenty of chances for birdie and you’ve got to make them. If you don’t, you are going to throw away matches,” he said.
“I knew Jerry would be a tough competitor but luckily for me, he didn’t hole the putts today. He hit the hole a number of times and it made all the difference.
“On the sixth, I holed from 20 feet and he missed from nine. That really summed up his day. From there I just felt solid and and kept moving forward.
“Jerry obviously had to go after the pins and would have been under more pressure. Today was a solid, comprehensive win. But it certainly would have been a very tight match if I had missed and he had holed there.”
One up after a conceded birdie at the par-five opening hole, Harrington looked likely to be pegged back to all square at the sixth when Kelly fired his approach to nine feet.
But Harrington holed from 20 feet and Kelly missed to go two down and never really looked like getting back into the match.
Length was Harrington’s friend yesterday as he showed when driving the 318-yard seventh with a three wood to halve in birdie.
But his putting was sensational and when holed a crucial seven-footer for a winning par at the eighth to go three up and then two putted the par-five 10th to cruise four holes ahead, he never looked in any danger.
Cink beat Miguel Angel Jimenez 4 and 3 on mixed morning for the European contingent.
The highlight was arguably Colin Montgomerie’s 3 and 2 win over world number seven Jim Furyk though Casey’s nine birdies against Karlsson was more spectacular.
“It did go through my mind at one stage that I could shoot 64 and lose," said a relieved Casey. "And it was very close.”
Monty was just plain happy to set up a second round clash with Charles Howell III as he bids to make the world’s top 50 and qualify for the Masters.
“I’ve beaten one of the US’s top, top match players and toughest opponents,” said the delighted Scot, who went three up when he holed a 50 footer at the 15th. “It’s done wonders for me and it’s done wonders for my confidence.”
Sergio Garcia used two putters to defeat Australia’s John Senden 3 and 2 - the short putter for most of the day and the long one on the last few holes when his stroke faltered.
But there were also notable wins for Welshman Bradley Dredge, who saw off Rory Sabbatini 4 and 3, and for England's Ian Poulter, who wrapped things up in time to watch his beloved Arsenal play Milan after his 2 and 1 victory over Denmark's Soren Hansen.
Following his missed cut in Los Angeles last week, Justin Rose’s troubled start to the season continued when he lost 2 and 1 to Rod Pampling while Luke Donald came back from one down after 12 to beat compatriot Nick Dougherty 2 and 1.
Defending champion Henrik Stenson escaped with a one up victory over Robert Allenby despite a dreadful drive at the 18th that shot low and left off the club into the desert.
“It was a low, scappy amateur shot,” Stenson said.
World number one Tiger Woods drove out of bounds at the first against long-hitting JB Holmes and found himself three down after five before battling back to one down thanks to birides at the sixth and eighth.
But he was at odds with his game, losing the ninth to a par and birdie at the 10th and 12th were only good enough for halves and when he drove into desert at the 13th he was three down with five to play.