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Harrington sets early pace as McIlroy and Woods make solid starts to The Barclays

updated 7:33 AM EDT, Fri August 24, 2012
Padraig Harrington tees off on the 12th at Bethpage Black on his way to a 64 in The Barclays.
Padraig Harrington tees off on the 12th at Bethpage Black on his way to a 64 in The Barclays.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Padraig Harrington sets early pace in The Barclays to lead by one shot
  • Irish star shoots seven-under 64 on Bethpage Black Course in New York
  • Tiger Woods on 68 with world No. 1 Rory McIlroy in clubhouse on 69
  • Defending champion Dustin Johnson on four-under 67

(CNN) -- Padraig Harrington rolled back the years to take the early lead in the first leg of the lucrative FedEx Cup playoffs, after firing a seven-under-par 64 in Thursday's opening round of The Barclays tournament in New York.

The 40-year-old Irishman has not won in the United States since claiming the 2008 PGA Championships, his third major title, but has shown signs of a revival this season.

He held a one-shot lead over Americans Nick Watney and Brian Harman going into Friday's second round on the Black Course at Bethpage, while Wyndham Championship winner Sergio Garcia was in a group tied for fourth on 66.

"I've been playing well for quite a while," Harrington told the official PGA Tour website. "But this is the best I've putted."

A stunning back nine of 29 capped a superb round on a tough layout which has hosted two U.S. Opens, helped by five successful putts from outside 10 feet.

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With European captain Jose Maria Olazabal picking his Ryder Cup team Monday, Harrington knows this is the last chance to stake a claim for a wild card pick.

"I don't want to go in there and try too desperately to beg for a pick, or I don't want to go in there and give excuses for anything," Harrington said. "I'll just leave it be what it is. I'm just going to play golf."

Early starters prospered in good scoring conditions on the 7,468-yard course in New York State, including world No. 3 Tiger Woods and top-ranked new PGA champion Rory McIlroy, who were paired together with former Masters champion Zach Johnson.

Woods and Johnson both carded three under 68 to be tied for 14th along with England's world No. 2 Luke Donald, British Open champion Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson, with Northern Ireland's McIlroy on 69 tied for 26th in a group including world No. 4 Lee Westwood..

Spain's Garcia, whose victory at Greensboro last weekend clinched an automatic place in the European team to face the United States next month, was one shot ahead of a group including defending champion Dustin Johnson of the U.S.

The top 125 players in the PGA Tour standings qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs, which are held over four tournaments, The Barclays, Deutsche Bank Championship, BMW Championship and the 30-man finale, the Tour Championship -- with a $10 million bonus on offer for the overall winner.

Woods led the standings coming into the tournament, with McIlroy in third position, while Harrington was 62nd.

Meanwhile in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts, who needs to finish first or second to clinch his automatic place in the European team, made a good start with a three-under-par 69 which left him tied for eighth.

Brett Rumford of Australia and Norway's Knut Borsheim led after 67s.

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