Padraig Harrington finds his game at Firestone

Associated Press

Padraig Harrington feels good enough about his swing to concentrate on his results, and it finally paid off Thursday in the Bridgestone Invitational with a six-under-par 64 for a two-shot lead at Akron, Ohio.

Harrington has not won a sanctioned tournament since last year at the PGA Championship, when he became the first European in history to win successive majors in the same season.

The Irishman has a two-shot lead over Scott Verplank, Tim Clark and Prayad Marksaeng.

Tiger Woods kept alive his streak of breaking par in the opening round for the 11th straight time at Firestone, where he is going for his seventh victory on the tree-lined course. He didn't do anything special in his round of 68, although it kept him in the picture.

Phil Mickelson, returning to the PGA Tour, played bogey-free on his back nine and picked up three birdies to salvage a round of even-par 70.

Harrington missed five straight cuts at one point, and hasn't finished in the top 10 since he opened his season at the Abu Dhabi Championship.

On a soft and serene afternoon -- and a week before his title defense in the final major of the year -- this was a good step.

Harrington said that's all it was.

"It doesn't change the last six months, it won't change the next six months," Harrington said. "It's only a game of golf, one particular round. I wouldn't put too much significant into it because what if I went out there and shot 76? Would I let it affect tomorrow? I think I would not put much emphasis on the fact that I shot 64. I'm comfortable with it."

Woods has never opened with worse than a 68 since he first came to Firestone in 1997, and although he wasn't particularly crisp, he came through with birdies on the 12th and 13th holes to alleviate any stress in his start. A week ago, he was tied for 95th after the opening round before winning the Buick Open.

Mickelson's wife and mother are battling breast cancer, although they are progressing enough that he could return to golf. Two holes into his round, he missed on a flop shot and a three-foot putt and took double bogey as he went out in 38. He turned it around, however, and hopes he's not far off.

"I think when you get in competition, I wasn't trusting myself as much," Mickelson said. "The pins start to get tucked, and you can't miss it in certain spots, and I start kind of steering it a little bit. The last eight holes, I made a few better swings."

Reno-Tahoe Open

Rod Pampling shot a five-under 67 to take a one stroke lead in swirling mountain winds at the Legends Reno-Tahoe Open.

Two-time tourney winner Vaughn Taylor and former Nevada Wolf Pack golfer Rich Barcelo are among those a stroke behind after the opening round at Montreux Golf and Country Club, where morning winds gusted up to 32 mph.

The group at 69 includes three PGA Championship winners -- Paul Azinger, Steve Elkington and Shaun Micheel.

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