Harrington opens with a 61 at Innisbrook

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PALM HARBOR, FLA. (AP) - Padraig Harrington knew he was playing better golf than his scores indicated. He just wasn’t expecting the lowest official score of his life, a 10-under 61 to set the course record Thursday in the Transitions Championship.

Harrington took a step toward ending 17 months and 37 tournaments without a victory when he made 10 birdies, including a 75-footer late in his round, to build a three-shot lead among the early starters at Innisbrook.

“I play better on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday than I do on the Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday,” Harrington said. “I’m trying to stay patient. I know my game is good. One of the hardest things is to wait with confidence. I’m feeling like things are ready to happen. Obviously, today it showed the potential. Today is a peak. But we’ll wait and see what happens over the next number of weeks.”

Harrington’s previous best was a 62 three times, most recently at the 2009 Portugal Masters.

With a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th _ how could it not go in the way his day was going? _ he broke by one shot the record at the esteemed Copperhead Course at Innisbrook that had been held by Mark Calcavecchia in 2007 and Jeff Sluman in 2004.

Will Claxton birdied the 18th for a 64, a score that would have put him atop the leaderboard at Innisbrook the last seven years. John Senden, coming off a 65 in the final round at Doral, was in a large group at 66 that included William McGirt and 51-year-old Kenny Perry, making a rare appearance on the PGA Tour.

Did anyone see a 61 at Innisbrook?

“I did. I watched it,” said Geoff Ogilvy, who played alongside Harrington. “On the first tee, I didn’t see 61. But after you see it done … the only really, completely unreasonable birdie was on the 17th. There was never any stress.”

That birdie putt up the ridge was from 75 feet, and Harrington said it looked good for the last 15 feet.

But if there was one putt that reminded him how everything was falling his way, it was the 6-foot birdie on the 16th, atop a crown in such a way that Harrington wasn’t sure which way it was going to break. He guessed right.

“You’re really guessing at which way it’s going to go, but on your day, it goes the right way,” he said. “I guarantee you there will be a lot of players having a frustrating day, telling you they hit it exactly where they wanted and it missed.”

With a wedge into 15 feet on the last hole, he had no doubt.

“When it’s your day, I could have turned my back on the hole and I would have holed the putt on the last,” Harrington said. “That’s just the way it is when things are going for you.”

Not much has been going well for the three-time major champion since he last won the Johor Open in October 2010. Though he tinkers endlessly with his swing, Harrington had trouble scoring.

He has been working with Pete Cowen, and in January began seeing Dave Alred, whom he refers to as a practice coach. Alred also works with Luke Donald as the Englishman rose to No. 1 in the world, though he is best known in rugby circles as a kicking coach for the likes of Jonny Wilkinson.

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