Padraig Harrington fired a third-round four-under-par 68 to move back inside the top 10 at the Valero Texas Open and now sits just five strokes behind 54-hole leader Patrick Rodgers.
Having largely struggled through 16 holes in round two before darkness called a halt to proceedings, the three-time major champion left TPC San Antonio a little too close to the cut line for comfort on Friday evening, but he’d return Saturday morning and start the day with a birdie at the par-4 17th to get a little breathing room and he’d finish the round at -3 – one-over for the round, but crucially, one under for the morning.
With the wind picking up and making an already tricky golf course even more so, Harrington reeled off nine consecutive pars to begin round three, hitting eight of nine greens in regulation, but unable to get any putts to drop. He’d add another to begin the inward loop, but the round came alive over the closing eight holes.
He rolled in a nine-footer for birdie at the par-4 11th and two-putted for birdie from 66 feet at the par-5 14th to get to -2 for the day. A pinpoint long-iron from the fairway at the next travelled 194 yards and came to rest just two feet from the hole for birdie number three, and he’d take care of the short 17th for the second time of the day to get to -4 for the tournament. He’d close out the round with a par at the monstrously long 18th to reach the clubhouse at -7 and end the day tied for sixth.
“Yeah, it was a nice score today,” Harrington said afterwards, “nice back nine, took my chances. I’m not quite sure if there was some easy pins and some tough pins. So seems like the scoring isn’t that good, so I’m quite happy with it. I certainly lost a few shots yesterday looking at that cut, probably lost two or three shots.
“I looked up at the leaderboard after 11 holes yesterday and saw I was in like 12th spot but only three shots off the cut and I froze for a good five holes. Yeah, so kind of regretting those now. Hopefully — I’m sure the leaders will make a few birdies coming home, there’s certainly opportunities on the back nine, 14 and 17 are playing pretty easy. Maybe I’ll be — I don’t know, I have no idea. It was a decent day anyway. Maybe a low one tomorrow will get us in the hunt.”
After his 68 in the fog-delayed opening round, Harrington had expressed slight concerns over how the 51-year-old’s body would stand up to what he expected to be in the region of 25-27 holes today.
“Yeah, there’s a few aches and pains,” he conceded when questioned about his physical state, “a few new aches and pains, too. I knew I’d make it through, I just — I went to the physio early today and I’m going to go again now. I’m going to go and do my, yeah, bit of recovery. That’s all that’s needed. Only 20 holes so it wasn’t too bad.”
For the second night in succession, Patrick Rodgers heads the field, but the three-stroke lead he enjoyed on Friday night has been cut to the bare minimum. The 30-year-old from Indiana is chasing his maiden PGA Tour victory, and, having covered the first 36 holes in -11, was only able to improve his tally by one through 54 holes, with a bogey-six at the last likely to play on his mind as he sits on a 54-hole lead for only the second time in his career.
Corey Connors is the closest challenger at -10 after firing a three-under 69, and they are joined in the final three-ball by Matt Kuchar who matched Connors’ 69 to lie tied for third at -9.
Harrington will play in the third-to-last group alongside Sam Ryder and Lee Hodges at 5:19pm Irish time, with Chris Kirk, Sam Stevens and Ben An in the penultimate group.
David Carey’s Texas adventures came to an end earlier in the day as he closed out round two but unfortunately finished outside the cutline. Having earned his place in the field via two successful qualifier outings, the big-hitting Dubliner found the going tough on Thursday and Friday, but returned Saturday morning for the closing stretch of round two and ended the week on a positive note.
He’d add three birdies to his PGA Tour account, going bogey-free for his seven holes in the process to end the tournament at +10, admirably closing out where several others who had no prospect of making the cut had opted to withdraw and leave town on Friday evening.
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