FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Padraig Harrington found a way Thursday to take some attention away from Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. He made six birdies on the tough back nine of Bethpage Black and opened the FedEx Cup playoffs with 7-under 64 for a one-shot lead at the Barclays.
Maybe that got the attention of Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal.
Harrington needs a captain's pick for his seventh straight European team, and that looks 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 nine years ago.
"The only answer I can give at this stage is I'm pleading the Fifth Amendment," Harrington said after questions about his chances of making the team and what he has to do to impress Olazabal. "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'm just going to play golf."
Olazabal had said earlier that Harrington had to produce an "extraordinary" effort to be considered. Asked Thursday to define "extraordinary," Olazabal replied bluntly: "At least win."
Harrington came to life on the back nine with four straight birdies to cap his 64, giving him a one-shot lead over Nick Watney and Brian Harman. Sergio Garcia was part of the group at 66, while Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler, both trying to make their own impression as potential picks by U.S. captain Davis Love, were in the group at 67.
There were 73 players from the 123-man field at par or better, not the kind of scoring associated with Bethpage Black.
Thousands chased after Woods and McIlroy, in the marquee group based on their FedEx Cup standings — Woods at No. 1, McIlroy at No. 3. Woods scrambled after a few errant shots and shot 68. McIlroy settled for 69.
If this is a rivalry, it figures to be friendly. Woods genuinely likes the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland. He chatted more than usual, and during one wait, McIlroy listened intently with a smile on his face as Woods told a story, then broke into a big laugh.
Worth repeating for all ears?
"No," McIlroy said with another laugh.
"He's a nice kid, he really is," Woods said.
LPGA: Yani Tseng opened with 6-under 66 for a one-stroke lead in the Canadian Women's Open at the Vancouver Golf Club. Defending champ Brittany Lincicome of Seminole and Tampa's Cindy LaCrosse opened with 72.