KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

At Fields Ranch East's much-awaited debut at PGA Frisco, Harrington whistles his way to a 64

May 25, 2023


Jeff Babineau

FRISCO, Texas – Be it at home in Ireland or here in the heart of Texas, Padraig Harrington is the wise golfer who knows what to do on those rare days when the winds lay down. You take full advantage.

Harrington, a three-time major champion in his days on the PGA and European tours, not only opened the 83rd KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship with a round of 8-under 64, but he looked to be showing off as he did it. He made the game, and his round, appear downright easy.

For instance, Harrington had vowed to course designer Gil Hanse on Tuesday that he would not go at the green with his second at the 544-yard 18th, which calls for a tricky tee shot to get a drive far enough down to do it, and then a difficult approach with a longer iron. But there was Harrington, firing his ball just over the green in two, then getting up-and-down for one last birdie.

“I'm angling down the left so much, if I hit it left on that line I'm effectively out of bounds,” said Harrington, who won four times in 2022 on the PGA Tour Champions, including the U.S. Senior Open. “Anything right is going into the hazard. So it's an awkward tee shot.

“But when good things are happening for you, you got to keep going. If that was a day that maybe I was 2 under par and I hadn't been playing well, I probably would have been more conservative. But I took the attitude, hey, things are falling in place today, they will probably fall in place here, too.”

It was that sort of day for Harrington, who drove it great (12 of 14 fairways) and putted it even better (25 putts). Rocco Mediate shot a solid round alongside him, but his 69 paled compared to the round he had watched.

“I just saw somebody dis-man-tle this golf course,” Mediate said.

Playing a morning round amid docile conditions, Harrington made eight birdies against no bogeys to take a two-shot lead through 18 holes over Japan’s Katsumasa Miyamoto. It was the debut for PGA Frisco’s Fields Ranch East, which is on the books for two future PGA Championships, and it probably was as scorable as players will see the place.

There was quite an international mix on the Round 1 leaderboard. In addition to Ireland (Harrington) and Japan, the top 10 featured players from Brazil (Adilson da Silva, 67); Wales (Phillip Price, 67); California/South Korea (Charlie Wi, 68); Germany (former KitchenAid champion Alex Cejka, 68); Australia (Richard Green, 68); Spain (Miguel Angel Jimenez, 68); Sweden (Robert Karlsson, 68); Denmark (Thomas Bjorn, 68); and Atlanta (senior rookie Stewart Cink, who turned 50 May 21). Da Silva, 51, had the best afternoon round. A player who has won around the world, he is playing for the very first time in the U.S.

After a disappointing par at his opening hole, Harrington got moving with a long putt at the par-4 second, two-putted for birdie at the par-5 third, and was off and running. Golfers love making 3s, and Harrington put 10 of them on his scorecard.

“If I'm looking for something that could have made a difference to the day, it was that putt on the second hole,” he said. “It was 35 feet, in she goes, I'm off and running. I hadn't birdied the first, so now I feel good about it.”

There were plenty of highlights: PGA Professional Dave McNabb (Malvern, Pennsylvania) and former U.S. Open champion and Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin made holes-in-one on the opening day for PGA Frisco. McNabb got his ace first, at the eighth hole (161 yards, 7-iron); Pavin notched an ace at the 183-yard fourth, on his second nine (4-iron).

Steven Alker, defending champion, opened with a round of 70, as did Steve Stricker, who is coming off a victory in this year’s first senior major, the Regions Tradition.

Among the 36 Club Professionals who compose the Corebridge Financial PGA Team, Tracy Phillips, who played so well at Harbor Shores a year ago (T-17), led the way, shooting 2-under 70. Bob Sowards, T-5 two years ago in the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Southern Hills, shot 71. Cameron Doan, longtime PGA Head Professional at Preston Trail and vice president of the Northern Texas PGA Section, who had the honor of hitting the opening tee shot in an all-Texas threesome (with Harrison Frazer and Paul Stankowski) ripped his first tee shot down the fairway on his way to 72.