Last updated: February 16. 2013 6:46PM - 66 Views

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FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Padraig Harrington found a way to take some of the attention away from Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy on Thursday. He made six birdies on the tough back nine of Bethpage Black and opened the FedEx Cup playoffs with a 7-under 64 for a one-shot lead at The Barclays.


And that surely got the attention of Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal.


Harrington has to rely on a captain's pick to make his seventh straight European team, and that looks to be unlikely. Not only has the three-time major champion gone four years without winning against a strong field, he and Olazabal are not the best of friends after a dispute at the Seve Trophy from nine years ago.


The Irishman had the toughest time Thursday after he got off the difficult Black course. There were so many questions about the Ryder Cup, his chances of making the team and what he has to do to impress Olazabal, that at one point Harrington adopted the American way.


"The only answer I can give at this stage is I'm pleading the Fifth Amendment on that one," Harrington said. "I honestly don't know what to say. 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. I'll just leave it be what it is. I'm just going to play golf."


That part was superb on a calm day that became increasingly warm.


It took Harrington a few holes to realize that he was back at Bethpage Black, but not at the U.S. Open. The greens were soft. The rough was deep, but not terribly dense. The pressure was not quite the same. And par wasn't going to cut it.


He came to life on the back nine with four straight birdies to cap off his 64, giving him a one-shot lead over Nick Watney and Brian Harman among the early starters. The hotter it became, the crustier the greens were, and it was unlikely anyone would catch him.


JOHNNIE WALKER CHAMPIONSHIP

GLENEAGLES, Scotland — Nicolas Colsaerts shot a 3-under 69 in the Johnnie Walker Championship, leaving the Ryder Cup hopeful two shots behind the first-round leaders in the final event in the points races for the 10 automatic spots on the European team.


The big-hitting Belgian made five birdies — including four in five holes on Nos. 14-18 — to share eighth place. He must finish first or second be assured of an automatic position in the matches next month against the United States at Medinah in Illinois.


Australia's Brett Rumford and Norwegian playing partner Knut Borsheim shot 67 on Gleneagles Hotel's PGA Centenary Course, the Jack Nicklaus-designed layout that will be the site of the 2014 Ryder Cup. Five players, including Ryder Cup qualifiers Paul Lawrie of Scotland and Francesco Molinari of Italy were a stroke back.

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