Padraig Harrington grabbed seven birdies Thursday and yet still found himself seven shots off the lead after the opening round of the Vivendi Cup.
Left as the only member of next week's European Ryder Cup side in the field after the withdrawal of Swede Peter Hanson with a chest infection, Harrington signed for a 4-under-par 68.
But an hour later, Sweden’s Johan Edfors completed a 61 that equaled the low round of the European Tour season and knocked two strokes off his best score on the circuit. Edfors had five birdies in an outward 31 and then started for home with three more birdies and an eagle.
The Tour's first-ever 59 was a possibility at that stage, but the former Scottish Open and British Masters champion bogeyed the next before finishing with two more birdies. It gave him a two-shot lead over England's David Dixon, while the scoring was such that Harrington did not even make the top 20.
Originally hoping to be in Atlanta for the PGA Tour’s Tour Championship, controversial wild card pick Harrington fell out of the FedExCup playoffs at the halfway stage and decided to add this far smaller event to his schedule.
He was 3 under after six, but mixed three bogeys with his four other birdies playing alongside his older brother Fergal in the pro-am format.
"If I had putted well, it would have been a tremendous score -- you have to hole putts to shoot a low number,” Harrington said. "I could see the two weeks of practice I've just done and I got stalled over the ball a bit, but another three rounds will do me no end of good."
Dixon's compatriot John Parry and two-time French Open champion Jean-Francois Remesy, now 46 and without a European Tour card, shared third place following 8-under rounds of 64.
The top four all played the Marly Course. On the adjoining Retz Course, left-hander Chris Gane and France's Julien Guerrier did best with 65s.
The field switches layouts on Friday before the event drops the amateurs and concludes with two more rounds on the Marly.
"I'm still a little bit disappointed. I don't think I'll ever get a better chance to shoot 59 than I had today,” said Edfors. “I was 10 under with five to go, had 80 meters left on 14 in the middle of the fairway and I three-putted.''