Harrington cautious despite good position29/06/2012 - 19:18:01
Padraig Harrington has given himself the chance to once again become the home winner of the Irish Open.
Without a European Tour title since the last of his three majors in 2008, but eighth in The Masters and fourth in the US Open two weeks ago, Harrington is 10 under par after two 67s at Royal Portrush.
While local heroes Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell are all still around for the weekend – for Open champion Clarke it was a first cut made all year – they would all pay a lot for Harrington’s position.
The 40-year-old Dubliner, who trails France’s Gregory Bourdy by two, is not exactly oozing confidence yet, however.
“I’m playing a game I’m not familiar with,” he said. “I’m hitting far more fairways and greens than normal and I know I could play better if I trusted it a bit more.
“I’ve shortened my swing significantly and I didn’t really put myself in any trouble. It was as stress-free a 67 as you could get in these conditions.”
In the first Irish Open north of the border since 1953, McIlroy and McDowell both stand five under, with Clarke one further back. Both need something special just to have a shot at the title.
Bourdy is a stablemate of Clarke and that proved useful on Tuesday when he joined him for a practice round.
“I saw him on a tee and asked if it was possible to share a game,” said the 30-year-old from Bordeaux. “He is with the same manager, so I think that helped to get the right answer.
“Darren has been great with me. He gave me a lot of advice and maybe that gave me some confidence for the week.”
He needed some. Bourdy has not had a top-10 finish all season and is down at 112th on the Tour money list and 175th in the world – 100 places exactly below what he was 12 months ago.
Asked what was the best advice Clarke offered he replied: “I’m going to keep this for me!
“It was good for the lines on the tee shots. After just two or three times you can see better to know exactly the way you have to play.”
Joint overnight leader with Indian Jeev Milkha Singh, Bourdy eagled the long second and at six under for the first 10 holes was three clear of the field.
Bogeys did follow on the 11th and 14th, the two par threes on the back nine, but he holed from 20 feet for birdie at the long 17th.
Clarke, of course, was not about to celebrate surviving a cut because that is not what he is about, but he knew it was important.
It is under three weeks to the start of his Open title defence and Royal Lytham and the 43-year-old stated: “I’m just not tournament sharp and it’s important to have more competitive rounds.”
He has taken a month off to rest a groin strain and coming as it did after a nightmare run he said:
“The break was massive. I needed to get away and the injury was a bit of a blessing in disguise. My golf’s not been that bad, but my scoring’s been terrible.
“I’ve been travelling all round the world trying to fulfil my role as Open champion, but now I’m refreshed.”
While Clarke is also playing next week’s French Open McIlroy is in his last event for The Open and, having missed the cut on four of his last five starts, Portrush took on real meaning for him too.
He is still not yet back to his sparkling best, but said: “The last two days have probably been the best two ball-striking rounds I’ve had in a while.
“I’m definitely close. I need something around 65 or 64 to get into contention, but I’ve shot low scores here before.” A record 61 indeed – at the age of 16.
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