Harrington in contention despite course

Padraig Harrington still has a love-hate relationship with Wentworth. And, surprising as it might seem, it will not change even if he earns almost £1.2m on the Surrey course on Sunday.

Padraig Harrington still has a love-hate relationship with Wentworth. And, surprising as it might seem, it will not change even if he earns almost £1.2m on the Surrey course on Sunday.

The chances of that massive amount being handed to the Dubliner are very much alive after a second successive 69 kept him on the leaderboard at the halfway stage of the BMW PGA Championship today.

By winning the Irish Open last Sunday – itself worth nearly £285,000 - Harrington made himself the only contender for a £680,000 bonus if he also captures the £495,848 first prize at the European Tour’s flagship event.

Late on the second day, last season’s Order of Merit winner was lying only two off the clubhouse lead held at eight-under par by former winner Angel Cabrera (66) and Justin Rose, who even with a three-birdie finish was able to add only a 70 to his opening 66.

“A million Euros is a million Euros in any man’s language,” said the multi-millionaire Harrington when asked about the bonus.

“I didn’t know how much the prize money was this week, but I knew how much the bonus was. I’m very aware of it because it’s something different.

“It’s only an incentive. If I don’t win it I haven’t lost a million – it’s always a positive.”

Yet he must try to do it on a course he stayed away from for two years because his main memories were as follows: “I’ve gone there every year and beaten myself up. That does nothing for my confidence.”

Harrington held that opinion despite having gone round the lay-out in an 11-under par 61 – the lowest round of his career – during the World Match Play final he lost to Ian Woosnam in 2001.

Asked if he still had reservations he commented: “Yes. I think the changes they (Ernie Els principally) have made are superb and it’s great tee-to-green, but I don’t think there’s a player out there who doesn’t know what I think about the greens.

“I’ve come out and said it in the past with the hope of things changing. But things haven’t changed.”

Certainly the possibility of winning two weeks in a row – it rarely happens in golf – does not unduly concern Harrington. “As an amateur I went 18 months in Ireland without losing in stroke play events over 36 holes or more,” he recalled.

“The better I do the more likely there’s going to be some adrenaline. There’s an extra million reasons on top of the normal reasons.”

But fatigue, mental and physical, is a problem he is aware of and already suffering from.

“I struggled at the very start today (his second shot actually finished on a spectator’s backpack), then stalled in the middle of the round. My three-putt on 12 (for a par five) was just pure lack of concentration.”

He then bogeyed the 14th, but at the 610-yard 17th hit a magnificent second shot to six feet for an eagle he described as “a nice tonic”.

Rose’s bonus was his playing of the last three holes. Prior to that he had mixed four birdies with five bogeys and had been overtaken by Indian Shiv Kapur.

But after a wedge to 14 feet on the 16th, he two-putted the long next and get up and down from sand at the last.

“It made a bad day a good day really – it salvaged the day,” said the 26-year-old, who after more back trouble is playing his first tournament since his fifth place finish in the Masters last year.

“My back was all right. It was my neck that went today. I felt a bit tight generally everywhere, but once I warmed up it all worked out.”

Another talking-point were his trousers, which brought comments from not only members of the gallery, but also his playing partner Michael Campbell.

There is a sign going into the Wentworth clubhouse which includes the words “blue denims not permitted”, but Rose said: “They are not strictly jeans.

“I think the orange stitching makes them appear that way. It’s a style I like, but I don’t think I’ll wear them again.” He was, however, allowed into the clubhouse.

Cabrera has a record to die for at the course. The big-hitting Argentinian was second in 2001 and 2004 and then two years ago went one better for what remains the biggest win of his career.

Holing a 173-yard eight-iron for an eagle two on the first was the perfect way to start and he went on to add four birdies and keep a bogey off his card.

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