Harrington at ease with old Czech mate as Stenson continues to impress

Fatiha Betscher

Padraig Harrington (Photo by Oisin Keniry/Getty Images)

Fatiha Betscher

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Padraig Harrington’s play reminded us all of his fondness for this week’s host course as Henrik Stenson continued to impress on day two at the Czech Masters.

Harrington, who was runner-up in the 2018 event, added a second round 71 to his opening score of 70 to be just outside the top-30 at three-under par on the Albatross course located on the south-western outskirts of Prague.

Europe’s Ryder Cup captain commenced his second round with a 10th hole birdie but then made a mess of the par-4 17th for a second day in posting a double-bogey, a day after taking a bogey. Though Harrington regained the two lost shots with birdies at the first and second holes, or the 10th and 11th of his round, ahead of seven closing pars.

“I’ve been steady enough and haven’t really been in too much trouble,” he said.

“I’ve made too many pars and could do with a couple of those putts dropping. I’m hitting some good putts that aren’t going in. If they go in on the weekend, I’ve left myself with a lot to do, but you feel like you could shoot a good score, shoot a couple of 65s over the weekend. It’s a lot of work to be done, but if I start holing some putts, it could happen.”

It’s now a third European Tour event in succession the current No. 38 on the Race to Dubai standings has assured himself of a weekend pay cheque, in what is his 453rd Tour event. Harrington showed his fondness for the course three years ago posting scores of 66, 68, 65 and 69 for a 20-under par total, losing out by just two shots to Italian Andrea Pavan.

“I do like the golf course and I feel I can get it up and down from anywhere around these greens,” said Harrington.

“There’s no real short side for me, so I can be aggressive. There is heavier rough this year than 2018 when I played, but it’s not too intimidating off the tee. One is my strength and one is my weakness, both of them are avoided here, let’s say.”

This year it’s fellow Open Champion Henrik Stenson well in the mix midway through the tournament, the Swede adding a second round 69 to move to within two shots of the halfway lead held by Sebastian Sodereurg at 10-under par. And Stenson is reaping the reward for the effort he made to travel to Prague from North Carolina after failing to qualify for the PGA Tour’s Play-Off Finals.

“I think that speaks volumes of my putting, course management and some tidy shots around the greens when I have been missing,” said Stenson.

“I definitely give my putting the biggest credit these first two days as to why we’re bogey-free and in a good position. There’s more to ask with the long game, but I still hit fairways and greens, I want a bit more than I have produced these two days, but we’re in good shape and I’m looking forward to the weekend.”

And after playing alongside Harrington for the two rounds, Stenson already has done his Ryder Cup selection chances well in hopefully being picked by the Irishman.

“I was expecting to give it my best as I’ve got four tournaments to build some momentum to be in the hat that Pádraig is going to pick three names out of,” said Stenson.

“I expected to give it my best and scoring-wise it’s probably better than I was hoping for coming in from three weeks off. I’ve done some practice but haven’t been playing a lot of golf on the course as of late, so it’s nice to be out there and keep the scores going in these first two rounds.”

Gavin Moynihan is also into the weekend rounds with scores of 71 and 72 but Michael Young was headed home early with scores of 76 and 75. Niall Kearney fired a brilliant bogey-free four-under par 68 to make the cut on the number at even.

At the top, Söderberg equalled the course record at Albatross Golf Resort as he fired an eight-under par 64 to take the halfway lead. The Swede, who will defend his Omega European Masters title next week at Crans-sur-Sierre, made the turn three under par before play was halted for half an hour due to waterlogging after heavy rain in the Czech capital.

He then made his move after play resumed, going four under on his next three holes with two birdies and an eagle, before taking the outright lead with his seventh birdie of the day on the 18th, signing for a ten under par total.

The 30-year-old leads Sean Crocker of the United States and Poland’s Adrian Meronk, who both carded five-under par rounds of 67 to sign for nine-under par totals.

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