Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington was frustrated not to have put himself in a commanding position to win a second Irish Open title at a windswept Royal County Down on Friday.
Former champion Harrington predicted on Wednesday that an Irish player would lift the trophy on Sunday, with Rory McIlroy seemingly the most likely contender.
Padraig Harrington lines up a putt on the 13th during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
But while McIlroy faced an uphill battle this afternoon to avoid a third straight cut in the event after crashing to an opening 80, Harrington added a 73 to his opening 67 to lie one shot off the early clubhouse lead.
Harrington briefly enjoyed a five-shot advantage when he followed six straight pars with birdies on the 16th and 17th – having started on the 10th – and picked up another shot on the first, but played the remaining eight holes in five over par.
“I’m pleased to be in contention but I would have preferred to be seven or eight under par and in a good position to move away from the field,” the 43-year-old Dubliner said.
“I’m now in a position where I need to play well over the weekend and not have anything go against me. There will be a lot of people who just make the cut who will think they can win now that I’ve come back to the pack.
“It will be a tougher weekend and I won’t have the luxury of any more bad runs.”
Bernd Wiesberger had produced the best round of the day to move top of the leaderboard, the Austrian covering the back nine in 31 with three birdies and an eagle and eventually signing for a 67.
And Shane Lowry’s round of 74 was almost as impressive considering the 2009 champion broke his putter on the third hole of the day and putted with a wedge for the last 15, which he covered in two over par to be four over for the tournament.
“I’m not proud of myself and I apologised to the lads (playing partners Francesco Molinari and Ernie Els) at the end,” Lowry said. “It’s not something you want the kids watching to see.
“I’m trying so hard and I got frustrated. The 12th is an easy par five, I missed from two feet for par and stupidly hit my putter off a metal fence post. I don’t deserve to make the cut doing something like that but I’m a passionate player and wear my heart on my sleeve. It’s not the first club I’ve broken and it won’t be the last.”
World number one McIlroy is now out on the course. He started the day plus nine and is par for the day after four holes.
The projected cut is currently four over.