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Jeff Maggert swoops in, starts strong at Transitions Championship

PGA Tour veteran Jeff Maggert, teeing off on No. 17, gets a spot in the tournament after Vijay Singh pulls out with a back injury.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

PGA Tour veteran Jeff Maggert, teeing off on No. 17, gets a spot in the tournament after Vijay Singh pulls out with a back injury.

PALM HARBOR — Jeff Maggert took an unusual approach to preparing for the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook's Copperhead Course.

Maggert, who finished the first round in a six-way tie for second with 4-under 67, spent the day before the tournament uprooting three dead palm trees that froze during the winter at his Houston home.

The 20-year PGA Tour veteran was the third alternate into the tournament Wednesday morning and didn't expect to play. But later in the day, Maggert had moved up to first alternate. And when Vijay Singh was a late scratch Thursday because of a back injury, Maggert was his replacement.

"I wanted to get in this week, but I was kind of far out on the alternate list," said Maggert, who had four birdies on the front nine and five overall. "But things worked out, and I hope Vijay feels better. Obviously the tournament is going to miss him, but I'm just thankful for the opportunity."

Maggert flew into Tampa late Wednesday — arriving at his hotel around midnight — and was at the course at 7:15 a.m., hopeful a spot would open.

"I was just hanging out on the range, hitting balls and kind of getting ready," Maggert said. "I don't think (Vijay) made a decision until maybe 20 minutes before his (8:27 a.m.) tee time."

As for his pretournament workout regimen, Maggert will probably skip landscaping duty the next time he's on the bubble.

"To be honest, I'm a little sore. It was hard to get loose," the 46-year-old said, laughing. "Those palm trees were dead, but they were hard to get out of the ground."

St. Paddy's Day: Padraig Harrington used the night before the opening round to celebrate St. Patrick's Day at the White House in Washington.

Harrington was one of about 150 guests invited to celebrate Irish culture at an evening banquet in the East Room. On the guest list were President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen.

"I was really impressed with how relaxed it was. It was very, very welcoming," said Harrington, who hails from Dublin. "I got to wander around and have a look at things. I'd never been before."

Harrington got on a flight at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, attended the reception from 6 to 9 p.m. and was back at Innisbrook at 12:30 a.m. Thursday, about 12 hours before his tee time.

"I was very punctual," he said, joking. "I arrived at 6 and left at 9. Very unusual for me. Normally I would be late on both ends."

Harrington brought a bag of golf clubs as a present for Obama but wasn't able to meet with him.

"I'm going to wait to have a game of golf with him someday," Harrington said. "If he comes to Ireland, I'll play golf with him."

Harrington sits just off the lead at 2 under.

One to watch: Keep an eye on rookie Rickie Fowler, 21, who shot 4-under 67 — four birdies, no bogeys — to claim a spot near the top of the leaderboard.

Fowler has finished second once and in the top 10 twice this season and hopes a few good results in the coming weeks will allow him to qualify for the Masters. A win this weekend would give him an automatic bid.

"I've never been there. I'd really like my first trip to be there to be playing the tournament," said Fowler, a California native. "That's kind of our main goal the next two weeks to try to play into the top 50 in the world, and if not, we have the three weeks to try and get a win."

Jeff Maggert swoops in, starts strong at Transitions Championship 03/18/10 [Last modified: Thursday, March 18, 2010 9:31pm]
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