Harrington Chases Dixon at The Belfry

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Wishaw, Warwickshire, England -- David Dixon fired a 6-under-par 66 Thursday to take a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the Benson & Hedges International Open.
 
Padraig Harrington is alone in second place one shot behind Dixon at minus-5. Defending champion Angel Cabrera and 2001 winner Henrik Stenson share third place at 4-under-par 68.
 
Dixon got his round going on the back nine at The Belfry. He opened with three straight pars before carding his first birdie of the day at the 13th. He jumped to minus-3 with an eagle a the par-5 15th.
 
Around the turn, Dixon birdied the first before faltering with a bogey at the second. He erased that mistake with his second eagle of the round at the par-5 third.
 
Dixon, whose best finish on the European Tour is a tie for 14th place at the Qatar Masters this year, then parred three straight holes. He moved to 6-under with a birdie at the par-3 seventh.
 
However, he dropped a shot at the par-4 eighth. Dixon closed his round in fine fashion as he dropped a 9-iron within a foot of the cup at the ninth to set up another birdie.
 
'My caddie suggested an 8-iron but the nerves were jangling a little bit so I decided on a full nine,' said Dixon. 'I hit it just perfectly. I actually thought it was going in, but it was a nice way to finish. There were a lot of guys from my home club around the green whooping and hollering at that shot.'
 
Dixon is in an unfamiliar territory but hopes to make the most of it.
 
'This is fantastic. I have often wondered what it would feel like to lead a tournament and here I am and it is pretty good,' said the Englishman. 'I will see if I can build from here for the rest of the tournament. I only got into the tournament late on Sunday night and here I am living the dream.'
 
Harrington struggled out of the gate with a bogey at the par-4 second. He atoned for that mistake as he holed his shot from 91 yards out for eagle at the next. He later birdied the seventh and ninth to make the turn at minus-3.
 
On the back nine, the Irishman drained two more birdies. The first came at the par-3 12th and the other was at the par-5 15th.
 
'I was a little uncertain coming into this week and I had been cramming in a lot of practice which does tend to affect your actual rhythm and flow on the golf course,' said Harrington, the 10th ranked player in the world. 'I am very happy with the way I played and I don't think it could have been better.'
 
Cabrera had an up-and-down day. He bogeyed the first before birdieing the second. He ran off three birdies over a four-hole stretch starting at the eighth, however, he double-bogeyed the par-3 12th. He came back to eagle 15 and birdie 17 for a round of 68.
 
Cabrera is looking to become the first and only player to ever win this tournament two straight years. This is the final version of this tournament.
 
Stenson birdied Nos. 1, 3 and 5 to make the turn at 3-under. After running off nine straight pars, he birdied the 15th. Stenson bogeyed the 16th but climbed back into a share of third with a birdie at the last.
 
Gordon Brand, Jr., Emanuele Canonica, Tobias Dier, David Gilford and Stephen Leaney are tied for fifth place at 3-under-par 69.
 
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