March 15 2012
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Padraig Harrington went out early Thursday, posted a course-record and career-low 61 then watched as everyone tried to catch him.
No one did.
Harrington’s bogey-free day -- in which he had 14 one-putts -- was highlighted by a 75-footer he canned on the par-3 17th. It was the longest putt he’s made in his career.
The three-time major champion’s 61 also ties the low-round of the season, a mark previously reached by four others. Harrington’s previous low round on the PGA TOUR was a 63, which he’s shot three times, most recently in the first round of the 2007 Nissan Open. His previous best score here was a 65 in the second round in 2010.
This marks the sixth time Harrington has held at least a share of the opening-round lead. None of the previous five have resulted in victory. His last first-round lead was at the 2010 Travelers Championship, where he finished in a tie for fifth.
Since its 2000 inception, the only first-round leader of the Transitions Championship to go on to win was in 2002 when K.J. Choi achieved the feat.
The closest competitor to Harrington is Will Claxton, who is four shots back.
Claxton, who Monday qualified into last year’s Transitions Championship, holed a 93-yard wedge at the par-5 14th hole for an eagle and birdied the par-4 18th to cap his day.
His previous best score on TOUR? A 66, which he posted in the first rounds of the Sony Open in Hawaii and Mayakoba Golf Classic.
Meanwhile, 51-year-old Kenny Perry, who is sponsored by Transitions, opened with a 66.
It was his best score since the first round of the 2011 Viking Classic, where he finished in a tie for 38th.
Perry, who is making his third PGA TOUR start this week, has made three Champions Tour starts as well this season.
Most recently, Perry won the ACE Group Classic in Naples for his second Champions Tour title.