Irish Open: Padraig Harrington one shot ahead of Zander Lombard
By Ali Stafford
Last Updated: 04/07/19 8:56pm
Padraig Harrington posted his lowest ever opening round at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open to open up a two-shot lead at Lahinch.
The three-time major champion, making his 24th consecutive appearance at the event, mixed eight birdies with a sole bogey to post a seven-under 63 and his lowest opening round on the European Tour in 18 years.
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Harrington looked set to end the day with a two-shot advantage, only for South Africa's Zander Lombard to birdie four of his last five holes to card a six-under 64 and get within one.
Eddie Pepperell marked his first appearance since the PGA Championship with a five-under 65 to sit in the large group sharing third, with Shane Lowry and Ian Poulter among the players three off the pace.
Playing alongside Poulter and Tyrrell Hatton, Harrington hacked out of thick rough at the second to set up a 12-foot birdie and picked up another shot at the par-three fifth.
Harrington holed a long-range putt from off the eighth green and birdied his next two holes around the turn, only to bogey the par-three 11th after failing to get up and down from off the green.
The Ryder Cup captain grabbed the outright lead by holing a 15-footer at the 13th, before getting up and down from the sand to birdie the par-five last and double his advantage.
Late-starter Lombard made his charge up the leaderboard by following a birdie at the 14th with three consecutive gains over the closing holes, with English duo Lee Slattery and Chris Paisley among the players alongside Pepperell on five under.
Defending champion Russell Knox began his title defence with a bogey-free 67, which top seed and 2017 winner Jon Rahm matched after carding six birdies and three blemishes in an eventful start.
Watch the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open throughout the week live on Sky Sports. Live coverage continues on Friday from 10.30am on Sky Sports Golf.