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Monday 18 December 2017

Harrington hails Obama visit

Pádraig Harrington is in the hunt for another title in Florida after what he called "a great day out" at the White House.

Ireland's three-time major winner, who flew to Washington DC for a St Patrick Day's dinner with President Barack Obama on Wednesday, resumed the Transitions Championship at Palm Harbor today four behind leader Garrett Willis.

Harrington, who finished his three-under-par opening round of 68 by holing a bunker shot, did not actually meet the President, but was still left with many memories.

The Dubliner took a set of Wilson clubs as a gift -- left-handed ones -- plus a bag embossed with the ornate presidential seal where the professional's name usually goes.

"I know he will get them and hopefully he will like them," said Harrington, who estimated there were about 150 people at the reception. "Nice way to celebrate St Patrick's Day."

Obama addressed the entire gathering and then came out to shake hands, but Harrington missed out on that as he had a private plane waiting to return to the tournament.

He did, though, have the chance to wander around the White House and added: "The day was more enjoyable than I thought it would be.

"The actual White House was far better. I just liked the fact that it was very welcoming. That was the thing that stood out the most.

"You could go and sit in the library. It was just very relaxing in that sense. The people there were very friendly."

Willis, playing on a sponsor's invitation and 251st in the world, ended the day two strokes in front of Swede Carl Pettersson, defending champion Retief Goosen and home quartet Jim Furyk, Jonathan Byrd, Jeff Maggert and rising star Rickie Fowler.

"I've been playing really well all year," said Willis, whose only PGA Tour victory came in Tucson nine years ago. "I've made four out of five cuts and I really haven't capitalised on my play.

"I put myself in position a couple of times and slipped back."

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