After 133 days with the belly putter, Padraig Harrington returned to a conventional one for the first round of the KLM Open and used it to salvage a one over 71 from the wreckage of another frustrating round.
On the clock from soon after he took a triple bogey seven at the 10th and then bogeyed the 11th to go three over for the day, he birdied the 17th and 18th with his Ghost Spider from around 10 feet to give himself a chance of avoiding a 10th missed cut this year in the KLM Open at Kennemer Golf and Country Club near Amsterdam.
Tied for 85th with Peter Lawrie and Waterford Castle’s Kevin Phelan, who dropped three late shots on his professional debut, world No 92 Harrington is perilously close to falling out of the worlds’ Top-100 for the first time this century if he continues to produce rounds like the one he posted on the opening day in Zanvoort.
The links like course should suit Harrington’s game but it was the ultimate grinder, Damien McGrane, who provided the Irish fireworks in Holland.
Relieved of the pressure of battling for his tour card thanks to his sixth place finish in Wales two weeks ago, the Kells battler chiseled out a five under 65 to sit just a shot behind evergreen leader Miguel Angel Jimenez.
The 49-year old Spaniard looked the polar opposite to an uncomfortable, fidgety and painfully slow Harrington in a marquee threeball with Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen (70).
As Harrington laboured, Jimenez appeared to cruised effortless around the links, picking up eight birdies in a six under 64 worth a one shot lead over McGrane, David Howell, Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti, Scotland’s Gary Orr and Australian Robert Allenby and the end of the day.
“When the sun came out I started to play my best golf,” said Jiménez. “Holing my wedge shot on the 16th was very nice, then the birdie on the last was a great way to finish. So I’m very happy.
“It’s a nice course and it’s in great condition, so I enjoyed my day very much. It’s maybe not playing as firm as it normally would, because of all the wet weather we’ve had. But hopefully we can get a bit more sun and it will dry out over the next few days.
“Seve’s first win on The European Tour was here in 1976, and José María [Olazábal] also won here in 1989, so hopefully I can win here too. That would be fantastic.”
Whatever Harrington’s reason for giving the belly putter after a run of 13 events, his results with it were poor - just one top 10 as well as six missed cuts, five of them in his last seven starts.
Hitting fairways, not putting, was the 42 year old’s biggest problem on a day of sunshine, cool winds and squally showers. Officially, he hit five of 13 fairways but putted well enough to give himself an outside chance of making the weekend.
One under through the turn thanks to a birdie four at the second and a string of pars, he ran up a triple bogey seven at the 10th in a heavy shower when he went right off tee, found a fortunate lie in the trees but then carved his next shot into more trees right of green.
Forced to take a drop under penalty, he got awful lie on a downslope, ran through the green into a bunker, failed to get out but then hit his sixth shot to seven feet and holed the putt for a triple bogey seven.
“It’s hard to hit a golf ball with a wet clubface,” Harrington said before admitting it was “a messy, messy seven.”
He went on: “And I am sure I made bogey at the next because of it. That’s the way things are going at the moment. On another day I would have got up and down for five [on the 10th] and moved up - not so bad - but such is life.
“It was nice to make a few birdies at the end. That gives me something to play for tomorrow.”
Harrington later revealed in his TV interview with Haward Clark that he has been struggling to hit the ball far enough in recent weeks and started hitting a draw “to get a bit more out of it.”
“Last week, from Sunday onwards, I was trying to speed up my hips. Bad idea….. It was strange today. I was never comfortable in the left to right wind - at all. Then the odd shot you hit straight in it and it was a little different for me. The ball is not starting on the line I think and that’s a first for me, really, all year.”
Whatever about Harrington’s struggles to find consistency, McGrane was delighted to make five birdies and an eagle in his five under par 65.
“I’m delighted, because I played lovely from start to finish,” McGrane said. “The course is in fantastic shape, and the weather was somewhat kinder this morning.
“The course is still quite soft after all the rain we’ve had over the last few days, which isn’t how this course was designed to be played. But the course is still a pleasure to play, especially the greens which are rolling so true, so there are plenty of birdie chances out there.
“Whenever I dropped shots I got them again pretty quickly, so that was pleasing and kept me moving in the right direction. I also had a nice eagle in the middle of the back nine [on the par five 12th], which also pus hed me right up there.
“I hit in 10 or 15 feet all day and picked off my share. So all in all it was a very pleasing day, and definitely gives me a nice platform to build on over the next few days.”
McGrane has a good record in the Dutch Open and so too does Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley, who shares 19th after a two under 68.
Shane Lowry shot a 69 in his first event after a two week break while Simon Thornton shot a level par 70 that left him just inside the cut mark.
Rookie Phelan made a very impressive start to his professional career when he birdied the 11th and 12th, his second and third, and followed a bogey at the 13th with birdies at the 14th and 16th to move near top of the leaderboard.
A bogey at the 17th saw him turn in 32 but while he got back to three under with a birdie four at the second, he double bogeyed the fifth and dropped further shots at the sixth and eighth to post an opening 71 that left him alongside Harrington and Peter Lawrie.
Waterville’s David Higgins and Ballyclare’s Gaeth Maybin shot a two over 72s.
Scores after round 1:
64 M Jiménez (Esp),
65 D Howell (Eng), D McGrane (Irl), G Orr (Sco), F Zanotti (Par), P Larrazábal (Esp), R Allenby (Aus),
66 O Floren (Swe),
67 J Quesne (Fra), T Lewis (Eng), M Fraser (Aus), W Besseling (Ned), J Jin (Kor), R Bland (Eng), O Fisher (Eng), S Khan (Eng), P Meesawat (Tha), G Havret (Fra),
68 A Snobeck (Fra), P McGinley (Irl), M Carlsson (Swe), P Casey (Eng), H Otto (RSA), M Foster (Eng), S Kjeldsen (Den), M Delpodio (Ita), C Paisley (Eng), E De La Riva (Esp), T Pieters (Bel), S Wakefield (Eng),
69 A Cañizares (Esp), R Rock (Eng), M Baldwin (Eng), J Luiten (Ned), F Aguilar (Chi), S Lowry (Irl), R Cabrera-Bello (Esp), C Lloyd (Eng), J Olazábal (Esp), D Drysdale (Sco), M Nixon (Eng), S Dyson (Eng), C Lee (Sco), R Finch (Eng), S Henry (Sco), W Ashun (Chn), R Coles (Eng), A Marshall (Eng), S Jamieson (Sco), E Kofstad (Nor), S Benson (Eng), J Kruger (RSA), R Kind (Ned), R Kind (Ned), J Hansen (Den), R Gonzalez (Arg), R Fisher (Eng), D Willett (Eng),
70 R Green (Aus), A Kaleka (Fra), R Santos (Por), R Ramsay (Sco), M Lafeber (Ned), P Waring (Eng), A Wall (Eng), J Parry (Eng), I Garrido (Esp), C Cévaër (Fra), J Kingston (RSA), L Gagli (Ita), S Thornton (Irl), R Wattel (Fra), T Fleetwood (Eng), B Koepka (USA), R Karlberg (Swe), D Fichardt (RSA), J Walters (RSA), R Derksen (Ned), M Manassero (Ita), J Morrison (Eng), M Jonzon (Swe),
71 P Hedblom (Swe), J Campillo (Esp), A Hansen (Den), M Ilonen (Fin), J Edfors (Swe), M Lundberg (Swe), J Lara (Esp), P Erofejeff (Fin), E Pepperell (Eng), M Tullo (Chi), A Hartø (Den), B Åkesson (Swe), P Harrington (Irl), M Korhonen (Fin), K Phelan (Irl), P Lawrie (Irl), J Gonnet (Fra), J Van Zyl (RSA), S Chowrasia (Ind), T Levet (Fra), J Singh (Ind), D Horsey (Eng),
72 N Fasth (Swe), J Van Der Vaart (Ned), F De Haas (Ned), R McEvoy (Eng), A Tadini (Ita), S Little (Eng), D Higgins (Irl), K Horne (RSA), T Van Der Walt (RSA), J Sjöholm (Swe), T Aiken (RSA), G Mulroy (RSA), G Maybin (Nir), M Wiegele (Aut), K Broberg (Swe), A Quiros (Esp), E Grillo (Arg), L Jensen (Den), A Dodt (Aus), C Wood (Eng), D Van Den Dungen (am) (Ned), D Foos (am) (Ger),
73 G Storm (Eng), L Wen-Chong (Chn), J Lagergren (Swe), M Southgate (Eng), M Madsen (Den), M Campbell (Nzl), M Warren (Sco), G Lockerbie (Eng), P Price (Wal), T Olesen (Den), A Levy (Fra), M Lampert (Ger), N Colsaerts (Bel), S Hansen (Den), L Van Meijel (am) (Ned), R Caron (am) (Ned),
74 G Boyd (Eng), S Strüver (Ger), R Jacquelin (Fra), P Whiteford (Sco),
75 M Kieffer (Ger), I Van Weerelt (Ned), L Slattery (Eng), M Kraaij (am) (Ned),
76 C Doak (Sco), R Van West (am) (Ned),
77 E Goya (Arg), C Macaulay (Sco),
79 X Ruiz Fonhof (Ned),
82 N Nube (Ned),
83 K Berger (Ger),