No Harrington spark at Firestone

By Brian Keogh

Open champion Padraig Harrington crashed back to earth as he opened with a two-over 72 in the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone

The Dubliner, 35, was one under par after just three holes but failed to make a birdie after that as he finish the day five shots adrift of early leader Hunter Mahan.

Paul McGinley also had a day to forget as he mixed six birdies with three bogeys, a double bogey and a triple bogey EIGHT to finish alongside Harrington.

That left struggling Darren Clarke as the leading Irishman on level par 70 as world No 1 Tiger Woods lurked just one off the pace thanks to a solid 68.

With little preparation under his belt following his victory at Carnoustie, Harrington arrived in Akron with low expectations.

And while he got off to a good start, chipping for birdie at the 180-yard 12th to go one under par, he was never quite sharp enough after that.

A classic, Harrington up and down from 58 yards at the 14th kept him in the mix early on.

And while he save par from eight feet at the 16th, he bogeyed the next after a pulled tee shot and never got back into red figures.

A bogey at the par-five second left him on over par par before a poor bunker shot at his finishing hole cost him another shot,

It was a complete rollercoaster for McGInley, who had to hole from 12 feet for a bogey at the first to save par.

Back to back birdies at the 12th and 13th allowed him to get into red figures.

But his round looked to be heading for disaster when he ran up a triple bogey eight at the par five 16th to slump to two over.

Deciding to lay up short of the water, he dumped his 109-yard third shot in the lake and then flying the green with his fifth.

But he bounced back in rollercoaster fashion, carding four birdies and a bogey in the next six holes to move to one under par.

But a double bogey at the sixth - where he took four to reach the green after tangling with the right rough - and a bogey at the ninth left him five shots behind.

Playing alongside Harrington, Clarke also started on the back nine but was three over after eight before finding some form.

Birdies at the 18th, first, fourth and seventh left him just two shots off the lead before he drove into a fairway bunker at the last and dropped a shot.

Leader Mahan, 25, fired a three-under par 67 to set the pace in sweltering conditions at Firestone Country Club.

The American birdied three of his last five holes to finish one stroke in front of compatriots Woods, Mark Calcavecchia and Boo Weekley plus Australian Stuart Appleby.

Woods, hunting his sixth victory here in nine appearances at Firestone, said: "I hit the ball pretty good today, just had a couple of loose shots and my short game was decent.

"I do feel comfortable around here. I don't know what it is. This course just fits my eye and for some reason I've had some success here."