Date: October 03, 2008

Fraser starts well

Australian Marcus Fraser has made a terrific start to the Dunhill Links Championship with a six-under-par first round. Fraser fired off seven birdies and conceded just the one bogey at the 7th hole to be two shots off pace-setters Ross Fisher and Soren Hansen. Frraser&aposs compatriots Peter Fowler, Terry Pilkadaris, Won Joon Lee and Kiwi Michael Campbell are all on four-under in a share of 20th position Meanwhile, Padraig Harrington produced a brilliant finish to rescue his hopes of a third Dunhill Links Championship, and with it almost certainly a second Order of Merit title. Harrington has complained of fatigue since the Ryder Cup at Valhalla, where he surprisingly gained just half a point for the second contest in succession. And the Irishman looked to be still some way off the form that brought him the last two major championships as he failed to make the most of benign early conditions at Kingsbarns, one of the three courses, along with St Andrews and Carnoustie, used for the lucrative pro-am event. Starting from the 10th, Harrington birdied the 12th and 13th but then dropped shots at the 16th and 17th and was level par after 12 holes, good enough only for a share of 90th place. But the double Open winner then birdied five of his last six holes to card a five-under-par 67, three off the lead held by Ryder Cup team-mate Hansen and England&aposs Fisher. “When you are leading it you want to win it,” said Harrington, who currently leads Lee Westwood by 180,000 pounds ($AU 410,802) at the top of the money list, with 432,000 pounds ($AU 985,439) on offer to the winner here. “The first question you will be asked when you retire is how many majors you have won, but Order of Merits come a close second.” Harrington was paired with another cup team-mate, and foursomes partner, Robert Karlsson – who also shot 67 – and admitted the pair had been doing some &apossoul-searching&apos about Europe&aposs surprise defeat at Valhalla on the way round. “We decided the US team just played better and we can&apost have an issue with that,” added Harrington. “One thing that we did agree on was that &aposOlly&apos (Jose Maria Olazabal, Nick Faldo&aposs vice-captain) will make a fantastic captain.” “He had us in tears with his passion on Saturday night.” Nine of the lowest 12 scores of the day came from Kingsbarns – only Thomas Levet&aposs 67 at Carnoustie broke the top 20 – and one of those came nine from England&aposs David Howell. Howell finished seventh on the Order of Merit in 2005 and third the following year, but slumped to 142nd last year after a season blighted by injuries and loss of form. The 33-year-old from Swindon has shown signs of recapturing his best form this season and claimed a share of fourth place on six-under-par after a 66 he felt could have been even better. “That&aposs a big change for me, being &aposannoyed&apos with a 66, and it&aposs two good rounds in a row,” Howell told PA Sport. “I played well the last day at The Belfry on Sunday (shooting 67 to finish 16th) and again today.” “I&aposm making some progress, you don&apost do it one week, you do it by playing consistently over a long period of time. I&aposm starting to do that, which is nice.” “You have your low moments, of course you do, and I&aposve played some really bad golf over the last couple of years. I&aposve really struggled to control the ball and that&aposs not good when you play golf for a living.” “It becomes very frustrating when you know what you can do. It&aposs tough to take and the fall down the rankings that I&aposve had (he is currently 159th in the world) has been sent to try me and I&aposm still battling on. We live to fight another day.” Howell was a member of Europe&aposs previous two record-breaking Ryder Cup teams and admitted it was hard to watch its defeat in Valhalla last month. “You want to be part of Ryder Cups but nobody has a divine right to be part of them,” he added. “I had two in a row but it&aposs up to me to not just get in the team, but to be a worthwhile member that contributes some points. That&aposs the goal for Wales (where the Ryder Cup will be played in 2010).” Ten members of the beaten European team – only Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter are absent – are competing this week, with joint leader Hansen, of course, performing best so far. The Dane carded seven birdies and an eagle in his 64, the eagle coming at his final hole, the par-five ninth, when his approach finished just inches from the hole. Lee Westwood headed straight to the driving range despite a 68 which was matched by Graeme McDowell, while Oliver Wilson recorded a 69, Henrik Stenson a 70, Justin Rose 71, Paul Casey 72 and Miguel Angel Jimenez 75. Defending champion Nick Dougherty could only manage a 74 at Kingsbarns and world number eight Ernie Els went just one better at the same venue. Colin Montgomerie, who received treatment for a shoulder injury on Wednesday, was two-under after a 70 at Kingsbarns. Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, St Andrews Scores from Round 1 (Par 72) -8: Ross Fisher 64, Soren Hansen 64 -7: Martin Kaymer 65 -6: Marcus Fraser (Australia) 66, Marc Warren 66, Gregory Bourdy 66, Jarmo Sandelin 66, Gary Orr 66, Thomas Aiken 66, Anthony Wall 66, Marcus Brier 66, David Howell 66 -5: Phillip Archer 67, Scott Drummond 67, Thomas Levet 67, Jose-Filipe Lima 67, Padgraig Harrington 67, Reteif Goosen 67 Also: -4: Peter Fowler (Australia) 68, Terry Pilkadaris (Australia) 68, Won Joon Lee (Australia) 68, Michael Campbell (New Zealand) 68 -3: James Nitties (Australia) 69 -2: Greg Chalmers (Australia) 70 E: Scott Strange (Australia) 72, Peter O Malley (Australia) 72, Matthew Millar (Australia) 72, Steven Jeffress (Australia) 72, Richard Green (Australia) 72 +1: Scott Hend (Australia) 73, Scott Barr (Australia) 73 +3: Kane Webber (Australia) 75, Adam Bland (Australia) 75 +4: Gary Simpson (Australia) 76 +5: Unho Park (Australia) 77, Steven Bowditch (Australia) 77