Pádraig Harrington admits he is low on confidence despite battling back from an opening triple-bogey eight with a five-under 67 at the TimberTech Championship as he moved to within six of Bernhard Langer and kept his Schwab Cup hopes alive.
The opening hole at Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club is a par five but Harrington put his tee shot out of bounds and was blessed his third shot didn’t suffer the same fate. After playing his fourth left handed to avoid the OB fence, Harrington put his fifth into a penalty area and eventually held out for an eight from six-feet.
Despite showing his powers of recovery yet again he admits he is very much out of his comfort zone.
“Well, look, better than being 3 over par. It’s irrelevant,” shrugged Harrington. “I wish I had more confidence going out on the golf course, but I don’t, so I find the course very difficult. But look, the fact I’m better off at 5 under par than 3 over par, gives me a chance that I could shoot a good one tomorrow, yeah.
“I find this golf course exceptionally hard. I’m swinging in a straightjacket out there. Just like that first shot out of bounds left, out of bounds right, straight in your face first shot of the day, trying to squeeze one out there. That’s no fun.”
It was an eventful round for the three-time major champion who was flawless for his next seventeen holes. Birdies on five, six and nine saw him recover the damage from the first hole and turn in 36.
The US Senior Open champion then kickstarted his week holing out from 15-feet for an eagle on the par-5 13th hole to move under-par for the week.
A fourth birdie of the day on 16 was followed by a grandstand finish as the 51-year-old holed out for another eagle from the greenside bunker to move to five-under.
After his disastrous start Harrington had all but given up on his Schwab Cup hopes – focusing on finding form for the final playoff event of the season and some momentum for 2023.
Now the dream is still alive, needing at least a top-5 finish and Alker to not win to keep the race on.
“Yeah, I was struggling to get off the tee box at one stage on No. 1, so I got a lucky break with my second. So my third shot was going out of bounds, hitting three. Then hit a fence, I played left handed. Like it was only inbounds like an inch after that. I played a left-handed shot after that. Hit a lovely fourth, fifth shot caught the back, hit a pitch, six feet, holed it. It was a good 8.
“After that it turned into a practice round. You know, you’re just trying to do the right things and hitting shots on the golf course, so when you feel like the tournament is gone, which I obviously would have at that stage, I reset it. Let’s get the game in shape for next week. Hit shots as you would being trying to hit some great shots after that. Not really focusing on score, but really just trying to find something to keep your confidence going for next year.
“Doesn’t often turn around like that, but if anybody knows me, they know that when bad things happen to me, I dig deeper,” added Harrington who is 9th.
Darren Clarke moved to within five of Langer after a six-under 66 took him to that mark but it might have been better for the 2011 Open champion who let slip some shots late on in his second round.
At one point the Senior Open champion held the lead on his own at –7 after seven birdies in his opening twelve holes including five in a front nine of 31.
Clarke added an eighth birdie of the day on 15 but dropped shots on 14 and the par-5 18th left him seething walking off the course as he fell to a share of 4th place.
“I made a poor swing into for 14 with a lob wedge from that yardage, hit it in the right-hand bunker and it plugged, made bogey there. And then I had chances again, and then making 6 on the last is inexcusable.”