A hard day at the office was etched in Padraig Harrington’s face. He kept smiling but the mental strain of taking the lead in the US Masters, then trying to hold on to it was written across his furrowed forehead.
As a qualified accountant, he knows what hours of study go into achieving his academic goals and as a professional golfer the practice necessary to not only arrive at the top but stay there.
And it showed. His eyes looked raw from squinting and trying to read the tricky putting lines which are so much part of Augusta folklore.
But at least the mathematician in Harrington got his sums right – a three-under par 69 in the opening round is a hell of a way to start, even though he got to six under after 11 holes, to lead the tournament by three strokes.
He’d had birdies at the 2nd,3rd, 6th, 7th and 9th to cover the front nine in 31 to put a spring in his rolling gait, but having added a fortuitous birdie at 11, where his approached cleared the pond by only a matter of feet, he had a narrow escape from sand at 12 before dumping his approach into a ditch at 13.
The shot stopped his momentum and cost him a bogey six and was followed by a leaked drive at 14 where he could only find the front edge of the rollercoaster green and three-putted.
The Irishman who had seven runner-up spots last year before clinching the Volvo Masters, admitted to being ‘disappointed’ he had missed birdie chances at 15,16 and 17 from less than 12 feet. A bogey five at the last where he missed the green long, from a perfect drive, was less galling, he said.
Davis Love shot a five-under-par 67 to lead after day one, closely followed by Sergio Garcia, who birdied the 15th, 16th and 17th and Angel Cabrera of Argentina on 68.
Harrington is on three under with Phil Mickelson and US Open champion Retief Goosen.
Darren Clarke, Jesper Parnevik, Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez are in a group of 11 players, including defending champion Tiger Woods, on two under par.
British amateur champion Michael Hoey, recovered well after having five successive bogeys to the tenth hole. But two birdies salvaged his card for a 75 to join the same mark as Colin Montgomerie, Nick Faldo, Lee Westwood, Paul Lawrie and Seve Ballesteros.
Paul McGinley bogeyed the first two holes in his Masters debut, but hit back late on to secure a level par round.
Sandy Lyle, first British winner in 1988, and now the latest convert to the claw grip, surprised even himself.
After a bad start he turned in a creditable 73, while Ian Woosnam, troubled by a bad back nearly quit after nine but soldiered on, claimed three birdies in the last four holes and recorded a 77.
Bernhard Langer, in the last group of the day, was three under with five to play, but finished one over.