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Padraig Harrington takes clubhouse lead in Texas Open

Updated: Friday, 05 Apr 2013 09:15 | Comments

Padraig Harrington carded a 68
Padraig Harrington carded a 68

Rory McIlroy's last-ditch bid to find some form before next week's US Masters stuttered after a promising start in the Valero Texas Open today.

McIlroy only added the event to his schedule at the 11th hour after struggling to adapt to new equipment and recapture the form which brought him five wins in 2012, including a second major at the US PGA Championship.

But with caddie JP Fitzgerald advising him that he needed more competitive rounds under his belt, McIlroy travelled to San Antonio and initially looked set to be very happy with the decision.

Padraig Harrington is the clubhouse leader at four-under par, with a three putt bogey on the last a blemish on the round.

Starting from the 10th on the difficult Oaks Course - the fourth most difficult on the PGA Tour last year - McIlroy opened with four pars before picking up a birdie on the par-five 14th and another on the 17th.

However, a bogey on the 18th was the first of three in succession which dropped him back to one over par, not what the world number two was looking for after speaking of the need to cut out "silly mistakes" in his rounds.

The 23-year-old stopped the rot with pars at the third and fourth and then birdied the next two holes, but carded his fourth bogey of the day on the ninth and had to settle for an opening 72.

At level par, McIlroy was four shots off the early clubhouse target set by another multiple major winner, Harrington carding a 68 marred only by that bogey.

Harrington won the Open Championship in 2007, successfully defended it the following year and then won the US PGA Championship a few weeks later, but has not tasted victory on one of the major tours since - his last win came on the Asian Tour in 2010.

Anyone winning this week will have to defy the odds if they want to also claim a Green Jacket at the Masters, however.

Only two players have won the week prior to the Masters and then gone on to win in Augusta: Sandy Lyle in the Greater Greensboro Open in 1988 and Phil Mickelson in the BellSouth Classic in 2006.

Harrington was joined in the clubhouse lead by American Billy Horschel, who carded six birdies and two bogeys in his 68, while fellow American Jason Gore and England's Brian Davis were one behind after rounds of 69.

Sweden's Peter Hanson, who led going into the final round of the Masters 12 months ago, and Scotland's Martin Laird were another stroke adrift, with 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel one under after five holes and playing partner Ian Poulter level.

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