Padraig Harrington kept the Irish flag flying at the PGA Championship on Saturday as he charged onto the leader with a brilliant, bogey-free third-round at Baltusrol Golf Club writes Simon Lewis.
Harrington was the lone Irish player to make the cut in the final major of the year after world number four Rory McIlroy, US Open runner-up Shane Lowry, former US Open champion Graeme McDowell and 2011 Open winner Darren Clarke all missed the halfway cut on Friday night.
The three-time major champion began his third round at one over par, 10 shots off the 36-hole lead shared by Americans Jimmy Walker and Robert Streb. With an early tee-time in New Jersey, Harrington not only missed the bad weather that forced a delay in play before the leaders had even started their rounds, he also gave them something to think about with a five-under 65 that elevated him to four under for the tournament.
Bogey free and with five birdies, including a wonderful four at the last, represented a turnaround for the Dubliner, who won the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills near Detroit, after a frustrating two days during the opening rounds.
On Thursday Harrington had been unable to translate good play into a competitive score and signed for a one-over 71 while Friday's second-round 70 had felt like an opportunity missed, although he had putted much better.
“There was definitely a score on the golf course,” Harrington said of his third round at Baltusrol. “I probably made the most of the round today. Played average but made the most of it, took my chances. Hit the right shots at the right time and any of the shots that I didn't hit well didn't do me any harm. So it was one of those days. It's nice when you score better than you play.
“It was just an average day. Thursday was the day I played well. It was amazing, the best I played Thursday, is the worst score I shot. That's the nature of the game. It was nice to play the last well. I hit two nice shots in there.”
Harrington had showed his approach play was dialled in at the 14th when his iron shot to three feet at the par-four set up birdie and at the 18th he sent in a 2-hybrid, his equivalent of a three-iron, from 235 yards to four feet to close out a flawless scorecard.
He believes there will be more like that from the leaders when play does resume at Baltusrol after the lightning threat and rains clear.
“The course is definitely there. It feels like that to us, because it's not windy and soft. If you hit a good shot, you can make a birdie on any hole out there. Clearly there is some trouble if you get a long way from the pins and the greens, they are very difficult to two-putt them.”
Clearly Harrington is hoping the leaders to create too big a gap that they can't be caught during Sunday's final round.
“I'm just go out and play tomorrow and see what I can get and have a look at it,” he said. “In my head, I'm hoping the scoring goes a little bit like it did the last time the PGA Championship was here (in 2005), and the leaders come under a bit of pressure on the golf course and maybe some guys behind, namely me, get a bit of momentum early on and can push on.
“If you do get momentum from the early holes, you know, you feel good on this golf course. You feel there are opportunities to make birdies.”