Padraig Harrington shot the second-best round of day two at the Regions Traditions to move into a share of second at the first seniors Major of the year in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Dubliner shot a six-under 66 at Greystone Golf & Country Club to move up to nine-under-par for the week, two shots back of leader Steve Stricker at the midway point of the tournament.
It’s a sensational performance thus far from Harrington in his first seniors Major appearance, with the former European Ryder Cup captain dealing with the pressure admirably by dropping just one bogey and one double-bogey in his opening 36 holes in Alabama.
His second round was a superb display, in particular the finish to his round, the 50-year-old birdieing four of his last six holes to rocket up the standings and into second alongside Scott McCarron, the only man to score better than him on Thursday with a 65 even though this is his first look at the Greystone course.
“I’ve had two different days. Yesterday (Thursday) I didn’t play very well but didn’t putt well, today I played well but didn’t putt well,” said Harrington.
“Nine under is a good score to turn in, it’s a quite intimidating golf course in itself, plenty of danger out there so you’re always a little bit worried, but there’s some holes you can score on too. If you hit good shots there’s plenty of birdies and eagles to be made.”
He was thrilled too with his performance on the par-fives, as it was a large reason why he is in the position he is having taken advantage of the five longest holes by birdieing all five of them in his second round.
“Yeah, the back nine is a little bit more open than the front nine. There’s three par-5s, I hit 7-iron in, 6-iron in, and 6-iron as well, so they’re mid-to-short irons in. If there wasn’t so much trouble on them you’d think you’re going to make eagles on these holes, but they’ve all water around the greens, the greens are small so. It’s kind of ideal professional golf, it’s intimidating but you can still make birdies.”
And as for his chances come the weekend, well in true Harrington fashion he’s full of condience: “I just come out and play my own game. Certainly, Sunday if with 9-holes to go I was three, four, or five shots back then I would certainly change my game plan and go after it a bit. I’d take on a few of those holes and go for the pin, if I’m at that stage. But for the next 27 holes I just play the same shots and see where we’re at.”
Stricker still holds the advantage at the top, a five-birdie, one-bogey 68 making him the only man in double-figures at 11-under-par, and it could be a battle between former Ryder Cup captains at the weekend if the two players keep up this scoring.
McCarron will have something to say about that, however, as he played aggressively on Friday to card eight birdies and one bogey in his 65, which has him alongside Harrington at nine-under-par.
Back-to-back 68s from Ernie Els has him in touching distance, too, at eight-under for the tournament, with the in-form Steven Alker sitting beside Miguel Angel Jimenez and Stuart Appleby in a share of fifth at seven-under.
Meanwhile, Darren Clarke is down in a share of 38th after a one-under 71 moved him to one-under-par for the tournament but he will need a big weekend to pull himself up the leaderboard in Birmingham.
The former Open champion mixed four birdies and three bogeys in his second round in another solid but unspectacular performance and he knows he will have to produce more if he wants to pull himself into contention on moving day.
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