Harrington, Kieffer share lead at Irish Open


Blustery conditions humbled many of the world's best at Royal County Down, but a three-time major champ was still able to move to the top of the standings. Here's how things look after the first round at the Irish Open, where Padraig Harrington shares the lead:

Leaderboard: Padraig Harrington (-4), Maximilian Kieffer (-4), Soren Hansen (-3), Danny Willett (-2), Soren Kjeldsen (-2), Emiliano Grillo (-2), Luke Donald (-1), Alexander Levy (-1)

What it means: The winner on the first day was the course, as only 13 players from the 156-man field broke par at Royal County Down. That group was led by Harrington, who won earlier this year at the Honda Classic but had to withdraw last week for the first time in his career because of a shoulder injury at the BMW PGA Championship.

Round of the day: Harrington narrowly missed out on the U.S. Open during Monday's qualifier, but he carried that momentum into his opening-round 67. The Irishman was 1 over after 10 holes before reeling off a string of birdies, with five circles in a six-hole stretch from Nos. 11-16. That included three in a row on Nos. 11-13, and Harrington narrowly missed tying the course record when his 15-foot birdie try on No. 18 failed to drop.

Best of the rest: Kieffer closed with a 66 two weeks ago to finish T-9 at the Open de Espana, and the German opened with a 4-under 67 at Royal County Down. Kieffer, 24, had an eagle on the par-5 12th to go along with five birdies and three bogeys to grab a share of the lead as he looks to win on the European Tour for the first time.

Biggest disappointment: World No. 1 and tournament host Rory McIlroy got off to a disastrous start, carding nine bogeys en route to an opening 80. McIlroy failed to make a single birdie, and after a missed cut last week at Wentworth he appears in danger of a second straight early exit in what is expected to be his final start before the U.S. Open.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Harrington's storyline is worth keeping an eye on as he looks to win his national Open and punch a ticket to the U.S. Open in the process. But all eyes will be on McIlroy, who finished ahead of only two players in the opening round, as he looks to bounce back and avoid an embarrassing result in the tournament bearing his name.

Quote of the day: "The closer I got to the green, the worse the score got for me." - McIlroy, who converted only one of nine scrambling opportunities.