Hong Kong Open: Groom takes lead over Harrington
HONG KONG: World number six Padraig Harrington got his title defence at the $800,000 Hong Kong Open off to a perfect start when he fired a five-under-par 65 in the opening round on Thursday.
But the Irish ace had to settle for second place after Australia’s Adam Groom made a late charge to fire a six-under-par 64 and take a one-shot lead over Harrington and his European Ryder Cup teammates David Howell of England and Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez. South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel also forced himself into early contention with a 65.
The 33-year-old Irishman made his intentions clear early to the rest of the field that he was determined to retain the title at this tournament which is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and the Asian Tour.
He collected his first birdie on the third hole of the day and then added one more as he safely navigated the front nine. “I made a few saves out there. It was very pleasing, five birdies and no bogeys,” said Harrington who added a further three birdies from his last six holes. Groom got his flawless round off to a great start when he holed a 30-foot birdie on the first hole. It set the tone for his round of six birdies.
“It is quite a start. I was steady all day and I drove the ball well and putted well. It is nice to be on top of all these Ryder Cup stars. I just hope I can keep it up,” said the 25-year-old Groom. Harrington’s Ryder Cup-winning compatriots and Hong Kong first-timers Howell and Jimenez matched the effort of the reigning champion, both scoring 65s.
Europe’s most prolific winner in 2004, the red-hot Jimenez, stayed in the picture despite dropping a shot early in his round. Jimenez bogeyed the second hole of the day but recovered superbly when he eagled his next hole to get back on track and finished with six birdies and a bogey. “I hit it very well like the past few weeks. I made a bogey on the 11th but then thankfully made an eagle in the next hole. I feel in a good mood, I like playing in Asia,” said Jimenez who has won two of his four titles this year in Asia.
Two shots off the pace on 66 was a group of six players including Frenchman Gregory Havret, American Bryan Saltus, Australia’s Scott Barr, Indian Harmeet Kahlon, Alessando Tadini of Italy and Hong Kong’s Derek Fung. Spain’s two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, a winner here in 2002, shot a three-under-par 67 as did Thai ace Thongchai Jaidee. England’s six-time Major winner Nick Faldo scored 69. afp