Padraig Harrington on Thursday produced a brilliant finish to rescue his hopes of a third Dunhill Links Championship, and with it almost certainly a second Order of Merit title.
Harrington has complained of fatigue since the Ryder Cup at Valhalla, where he surprisingly gained just half a point for the second contest in succession.
And the Irishman looked to be still some way off the form that brought him the last two major championships as he failed to make the most of benign early conditions at Kingsbarns, one of the three courses, along with St Andrews and Carnoustie, used for the lucrative pro-am event.
Starting from the 10th, Harrington birdied the 12th and 13th but then dropped shots at the 16th and 17th and was level par after 12 holes, good enough only for a share of 90th place.
But the double Open winner then birdied five of his last six holes to card a five-under-par 67, three off the lead held by Ryder Cup team-mate Soren Hansen and England’s Ross Fisher.
“When you are leading it you want to win it,” said Harrington, who currently leads Lee Westwood by £180,000 (€229,678) at the top of the money list, with £432,000 (€551,227) on offer to the winner here.
“The first question you will be asked when you retire is how many majors you have won, but Order of Merits come a close second.”
Harrington was paired with another cup team-mate, and foursomes partner, Robert Karlsson today – who also shot 67 – and admitted the pair had been doing some “soul-searching” about Europe’s surprise defeat at Valhalla on the way round.
“We decided the US team just played better and we can’t have an issue with that,” added Harrington.
“One thing that we did agree on was that Olly (Jose Maria Olazabal, Nick Faldo’s vice-captain) will make a fantastic captain.
“He had us in tears with his passion on Saturday night.”