Pádraig chipper in Texas
 Pádraig Harrington smiles following his chip-in birdie at the 17th

Pádraig Harrington smiles following his chip-in birdie at the 17th

Pádraig Harrington birdied three of his last seven holes to turn a lacklustre round into a solid opening 70 in the $6,2m Valero Texas Open.

Making his first start since missing the cut in Houston three weeks ago, the world No 134 ended his day tied for 13th at TPC San Antonio's AT&T Oaks course and while the sub-par start is welcome, he has now gone 11 successive rounds without breaking 70.

The three-time major champion is four strokes behind playing partner Charley Hoffman, who shot a  66 in soft, windless conditions to lead by one from Australia's Stuart Appleby and American Peter Malnati on six under par.

Harrington got off to a good start, splashing out to less than three feet at the par-five second to set up a comfortable early birdie.

A weather delay was only a minor inconvenience and while he bogeyed the fourth and the 10th from greenside sand, failing to hit the green on either occasion, he birdied the 12th from 12 feet and the par-five 14th by chipping close from through the green.

Now one under for the day, Harrington then holed a six footer to save par at the 15th before chipping in spectacularly from 25 feet at the 17th, where he took the pin out and all but hopped the ball into the cup.

Hoffman has a second, a third place finish to his credit at the venue as well as 11th place finishes the last two years.

"Tee to green its' very visual, shapes with the trees and it's a tough driving golf course," he said when trying to explain why he plays the course well. "I usually drive it pretty good and got to be accurate in your -- when you're hitting in there. For some reason I've been able to roll the putter.'

Asked about the soft course and calm conditions, he said: "Lot different than normal. Usually you're trying to land them short, today you're trying to get them past the hole and suck them back.

"No rough, no overseeding. Premium on driving isn't quite as much. You can hit them in the rough and have a shot at the green. There's low scores out there, still going to make some putts in the right spots."