Harrington well poised in Order of Merit race

Padraig Harrington took advantage today as Paul Casey opened the door to his Order of Merit rivals with a terrible finish to his second round in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

Padraig Harrington took advantage today as Paul Casey opened the door to his Order of Merit rivals with a terrible finish to his second round in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

Casey drove out of bounds on the 18th at St Andrews – missing arguably the widest fairway in golf – to run up a double-bogey six in a round of 74.

That was 11 shots worse than his opening effort at Kingsbarns and left the 29-year-old five strokes off the lead held by Wales’ Bradley Dredge.

More significantly, it also left him tied with Ryder Cup team-mate Robert Karlsson on seven under and two shots behind another K Club hero, Ireland’s Harrington, two of his rivals for the money-list crown.

Casey is currently ahead in the money race but the big prize money here and in the season-ending Volvo Masters at Valderrama means Karlsson, Henrik Stenson, Harrington and Colin Montgomerie are among those still in with a chance of topping the standings.

“I was trying to sneak it up the right-hand side on 18 and just hit a poor drive,” explained Casey, who led by one overnight after his opening 63.

“Everything that went well yesterday went wrong today. I didn’t make any putts and didn’t have control of the golf ball particularly well, and that caught up with me on the inward half.

“Although I got off to a good start with two birdies, it was difficult to get any momentum with the time everything was taking [the round lasted almost six hours] and having to wait on every hole.

“When you’re shooting two over par there are plenty of other things to thik about other than the Order of Merit – but I’m looking forward to playing Carnoustie on Saturday.

“It’s a difficult course but it makes you hit good shots, and if you do you will be rewarded. If you don’t the score could be a lot worse than today!”

Karlsson and Harrington both returned scores of 69 at St Andrews, and the Irishman is hoping for a second double victory in the event with partner JP McManus.

“The last time I won in 2002 we won the team event as well, and it’s definitely better for your individual golf to be part of a team,” said the Dubliner, who took three shots fewer than Casey on the 18th by driving the green to set up a birdie.

“I lost a bit of patience in the middle of my round but I focused more on the team score, and that gave me a lift.”

Montgomerie is eight shots off the lead after a 67 which was a marked improvement on his opening 73 at Kingsbarns.

Playing partner and film star Michael Douglas said the 43-year-old Scot had “putted his brains out”, and Montgomerie is hoping for more of the same at Carnoustie on Saturday.

“I’m the course-record holder there [a 64 in 1995] and need something low tomorrow and then another low one at St Andrews,” said Montgomerie.

“A score of 67 today after starting with a bogey was very good, and I’ve got myself back into it.”

Howell could only add a 72 to his opening 75 and admitted his hopes of winning the Order of Merit, which he led all year until Casey won the World Matchplay at Wentworth last month, are fading.

“I don’t think I’m the only one suffering a comedown after the Ryder Cup,” said Howell, struggling with the recurrence of a shoulder injury.

“It looks like I’m going to fall at the final hurdle.

“If I can shoot 65 at Carnoustie I might just have a chance of staying in there – but Paul has everything in his hands.”

Halfway leader Dredge can take his earnings for his last two events to a staggering £655,346 with victory on Sunday, adding the £427,441 first prize to the £227,905 he collected for winning the Omega European Masters by eight shots last month.

Dredge added a 68 at Carnoustie to his opening 64 at St Andrews, a round which established a new course record for the lengthened Old Course.

“I have always found it hard to score around St Andrews. I must have played 40 or 50 rounds there and I think to score well there is a lot to do with course knowledge,” said Dredge.

“I seem to be getting better at it. But it has taken me a while to be successful around that course, that’s for sure.

“As for Carnoustie, it’s tough. But you can see a lot more of the trouble around here and I always have fond memories of it, despite losing in the British Amateur final there in 1992. It’s laid out in front of you. You’ve just got to keep hitting good shots.

“I got off to a good start again with birdies at the first two holes – and apart from the bogey at the sixth [his only dropped shot of the day], I’m very pleased because the conditions were a bit funny. All of a sudden the wind would get up and then die down.”

Ireland's Damien McGrane kept himself in contention going into the weekend on six under par. Graeme McDowell and Gary Murphy are both on two under, with Ryder Cup hero Paul McGinley one shot further back.

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