Padraig Harrington, Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, was delighted with his return to competitive action in the Maybank Championship in Malaysia as he looks to make the most of his opportunities before the Ryder Cup captaincy “shuts down” his aspirations.
Playing his first event since November after breaking a bone in his wrist, Harrington carded a two-under-par 70 in the first round in Kuala Lumpur to lie five shots off the lead shared by Australia’s Marcus Fraser and Spain’s Nacho Elvira.
David Law, the Vic Open champion, signed for a 73, a shot better than compatriot Stephen Gallacher, leaving the two Scots in the field with work on their hands in the second round to make the halfway cut.
Harrington, who was apppointed as Thomas Bjorn’s successor as Ryder Cup captain earlier in the year, carded four birdies and two bogeys and the three-time major winner reported no serious problems with the wrist he injured during a fall at his home in mid-December.
“I certainly didn’t think about it out there, which is great,” Harrington told Sky Sports. “I didn’t hit it very well, especially off the tee I really struggled, so it was a really good score at the end of the day, even to come off the last couple (of holes) thinking I might have made one or two more putts.
“But I holed a couple early on in my round to keep a bit of momentum in it, I could have easily slipped two or three over par. I kept it together on the back nine, used my head well and managed to get a reasonable score out of it. I’m delighted.”
Europe’s defence of the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits is still 18 months away, but as a three-time vice-captain Harrington is well aware of the toll it usually takes on the game of the captains.
“It’s been busy enough (already),” he added. “The actual announcement there was quite a bit of stress and then a few weeks of media, now it’s got into the early organisation, looking at team rooms and hotel rooms and stuff like that and trying to figure out how much you’ve got to get involved. It’s the nitty-gritty stuff.
“My thinking is I can probably play golf for about a year and then with six months to go it will certainly shut down pretty much all the aspirations I have on the golf course.
“Even though I will still play, there will be just too much going on.”
Austria’s Matthias Schwab, Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond and Angelo Que from the Philippines are a shot off the pace, with Que playing his first 11 holes in nine under par to raise the prospect of the second 59 in European Tour history, only to suffer back-to-back double-bogeys on the 15th and 16th.