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March 15 2012

5:25 PM

Harrington breaks course record with 61

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Padraig Harrington hit 14 greens and had 14 one-putts Thursday.

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Apparently Padraig Harrington’s hole-in-one during the pro-am earlier this week was a sign of things to come.

On Thursday, Harrington set a course record with a 10-under 61 at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook, where he made 10 birdies, including three in a row to finish his round and take the lead. It was also the lowest score Harrington has ever shot as a professional.

“It's been a strange last year, but I'm very comfortable where my game is at,” said Harrington, who is looking for his first win on the PGA TOUR since he won the British Open and PGA Championship in 2008.

After those victories is when Harrington underwent massive swing changes. He struggled and got fed up with his play, eventually firing his coach before turning to Pete Cowen last year and more recently adding Dave Alred to help with the mental side of his game.

As frustrated as Harrington got it times the last few years, though, his patience seems to be paying off.

“I've been for a long time now, I play better on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday than I do on the Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday,” Harrington said. “I'm trying to stay patient. I know my game is good. One of the hardest things is to wait with confidence.”

Harrington has plenty of reason to feel confident these days.

Earlier this year he tied for seventh at Pebble Beach. In Thursday’s opening round outside Tampa, Harrington hit 14 greens and had 14 one-putts, including one from 75 feet for birdie on the par-3 17th hole.

At 7 under through his first 11 holes, Harrington even started thinking about shooting 59. But he missed a 6-footer for birdie on the par-5 12th.

“I'd love to tell you I was so good that bad thoughts didn't get into my head, but unfortunately they do,” Harrington said. “It cost me there. It certainly went out of my head after that.”

It didn’t slow him down any.

Harrington birdied the final three holes to close in 30.

“I felt I've played better than I've performed for the last 18 months,” Harrington said. “I have a good understanding of my game at the moment. So I've been quite comfortable going into nearly every tournament this year.”

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