Harrington in with a shout
Published 29/06/2012 | 20:42
Padraig Harrington, one of only two home winners of the Irish Open since 1982, has given himself the chance to do it again.
Without a European Tour win since the last of his three majors in 2008, but eighth in The Masters and fourth in the US Open two weeks ago, Harrington lies joint third on 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 - though the Dubliner still trails leader Gregory Bourdy by two.
And the 40-year-old is not exactly oozing confidence yet. "I'm playing a game I'm not familiar with," Harrington 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."
Bourdy and second-placed Mark Foster also shot 67, while Foster's fellow Englishman Paul Waring - playing his first event for over a year following wrist surgery - had a 65 to join Harrington and Italian Lorenzo Gagli (66).
Harrington won the tournament five years ago, won his first major at Carnoustie two months later and the following season added two more.
He would love the same to happen and he does not rule it out. "I know they are around the corner and they tend to come like buses. When you get one a few more arrive very quickly."
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."