Daily Wrap-up: Round 1, The Barclays

August 23, 2012
Staff and wire reports

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Padraig Harrington made six birdies on the tough back nine of Bethpage Black on Thursday, opening the FedExCup Playoffs with a 7-under 64 for a one-shot lead at The Barclays.

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A victory would likely push Harrington to the top of the FedExCup ranks and that surely would get the attention of Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal.

Harrington has to rely on a captain's pick to make his seventh straight European team, and that looks to be unlikely. Not only has the three-time major champion gone four years without winning against a strong field, he and Olazabal are not the best of friends after a dispute at the Seve Trophy from nine years ago.

The Irishman faced so many questions about the Ryder Cup, his chances of making the team and what he has to do to impress Olazabal, that at one point he adopted the American way.

"The only answer I can give at this stage is I'm pleading the Fifth Amendment on that one," Harrington said. "I honestly don't know what to say. I don't want to go in there and try too desperately to beg for a pick, or I don't want to go in there and give excuses for anything. I'll just leave it be what it is. I'm just going to play golf."

He came to life on the back nine with four straight birdies to cap off his 64, giving him a one-shot lead over Nick Watney and Brian Harman among the early starters. The hotter it became, the crustier the greens were, and it was unlikely anyone would catch him. No one did.

Sergio Garcia was part of the group at 66, while defending champion Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler, both trying to make their own impression as potential picks by U.S. captain Davis Love III, were in the group at 67.

There were 73 players from the 123-man field at par or better, not the kind of scoring associated with Bethpage Black.

Thousands of fans followed Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, in the marquee group based on their standing in the FedExCup -- Woods at No. 1, McIlroy at No. 3. Both got off to a reasonable start. Woods scrambled nicely to recover from a few errant shots and scratched out a 68. McIlroy smashed one driver after another to set up short irons into the greens, and while he had three birdies through six holes, he let the good start get away from him and settled for a 69.

If this is a rivalry, it is a friendly one. Woods genuinely likes the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland, who already has two eight-shot wins in the majors. During one wait on the par-3 14th, McIlroy listened intently with a smile on his face as Woods told a story, then broke into a big laugh upon hearing the punch line.

Worth repeating for a family audience?

"No," McIlroy said with another laugh.

"He's a nice kid, he really is," Woods said. "As I said yesterday, I played with him in Abu Dhabi. We struck up a friendship back then, and it's continued. And it's only going to get better."

Woods won the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black in 2002, and he tied for sixth when the U.S. Open returned to this public course on Long Island in 2009. While there were differences in the softness of the greens and hole locations, the most obvious difference was scoring.

"I shot 3-under par and I'm not even in the top 10," Woods said. "So it's a little different deal."

Harrington was even par through four holes, typically not a bad score, except that he watched Troy Matteson open with a birdie on the second hole and chip in for eagle on the fourth to reach 3 under early in the round.

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Round 1 Update
Brian Harman projects to surge 88 spots up the FedExCup rankings at Bethpage Black. Notes | Projected points

"It definitely helped me cross that divide between thinking I'm at a U.S. Open and level par is going to be the winning total this week," Harrington said. "This is much more of a sprint. You're going to need to be 12-under par at the end of the week, or who knows, but it ain't going to be level par."

Much of the pressure to make the Ryder Cup team subsided after realizing he couldn't earn his way onto the team following the PGA Championship. Even though Europe's team is not finalized until after this week, ranking points from The Barclays don't count. So he's out unless he wins, and even that might not matter.

Olazabal said at the PGA Championship that Harrington would have to do something extraordinary to make the team. He was told of Harrington's 64 and asked what would constitute extraordinary.

"At least a win," Olazabal said.

Olazabal and Harrington had a tense moment at the 2003 Seve Trophy when Harrington questioned the Spaniard repairing pitch marks. Olazabal felt his integrity had been questioned, conceded the hole and they had a face-to-face discussion behind the green.

Does that still linger? Might it make a difference?

"From the character that he is, I believe he would put winning way above anything that's personal," Harrington said. "The Ryder Cup means so much to Europe, particularly to Jose as a European player. Nobody -- bar Seve -- would understand in his mind what it means to Europe. Winning is what's important to him. I can't see personal coming into it to get a winning team."

Harrington then caught himself for talking about the very subject he wants to avoid. He would rather talk about his 64 at Bethpage Black, a strong effort even in soft conditions, or his chances to move up in the FedExCup standings and give himself a chance at the $10 million bonus prize.

Bethpage Black: Round 1
The par-5 seventh hole was the easiest with a Thursday scoring average of 4.268.
The par-3 third hole was the toughest with a Thursday scoring average of 3.325.
About the leader: Padraig Harrington
• Padraig Harrington, winner of The Barclays in 2005, carded six birdies to shoot 29 on the back nine en route to a 64 (-7). Harrington's 64 is his lowest round since a career-best 61 (31-30) at the Transitions Championship in March (finished T20). The 29 matches Harrington's career low for nine holes on the PGA TOUR. He shot a back-nine 29 at the 2007 TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola in the first round (finished T11).
• Harrington's 64 ties the lowest round in a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event at Bethpage State Park: The Black Course, posted by Lucas Glover (R2) and Mike Weir (R1) at the 2009 U.S. Open, when the course was played as a par 70.
• Harrington finished T8 (70-68-73-75) and missed the cut (76-76) at the two U.S. Opens held at Bethpage, in 2002 and 2009, respectively.
• Harrington has held or shared an 18-hole lead in a PGA TOUR event six previous times, most recently after his opening-round 61 at the 2012 Transitions Championship. He has not converted any of those 18-hole leads into victory. In fact, Harrington has only led in one round en route to his five PGA TOUR victories -- at The Barclays 2005, when he shared the 54-hole lead with Jim Furyk. At that event, Harrington made a 65-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to edge Furyk by one shot.

"We're talking about the wrong stuff," he said. "But I'm Irish, and being brought up in Ireland, we pay a lot of attention to bookmakers and their odds. And I'm sure if I went and had a look at the odds, I would be a long shot to make the team."