After a superb 63 on Friday, Padraig Harrington’s third-round 69 sees the defending champion lose ground at the Champion Tour’s season-ending Charles Schwab Championship in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Dubliner was near flawless the day prior, carding eight birdies without a blemish to his name as he came thundering up the leaderboard to sit one shot adrift and though he’d add six more birdies to his account on moving day, the errors had creeped back into his game and two bogeys and a double bogey saw him fall back and he now trails by five going into the final day.
The round started in ideal fashion as a routine two-putt birdie at the first saw him momentarily grab a share of the lead, but it was short lived as the final twoball both followed suit and Harrington immediately gave the shot back at the next and from that point onwards he was playing catchup.
Back-to-back birdies on seven and eight looked to have rejuvenated his challenge, and when he added another at 10, he was back within two strokes of the lead, but the charge came to a crushing halt on 14 where an errant tee shot saw him scrambling for par and he compounded the error by three-putting from the fringe to post a double-bogey six.
Despite the setback, he bounced back with two more birdies on 16 and 17, but his approach on the par-5 closing hole found the hazard and he’d sign off with another bogey and the two-under 69 saw him end the day five adrift of Alker.
“Golf’s a crazy game,” he tweeted post round. “Warmed up terribly yesterday and shot 63, warmed up lovely today and shot 69. Two sixes coming home cost me dearly. I’m 5 behind in T3 so I need a big day tomorrow.”
It’s far from over, though, as there is just one man between the New Zealander and Harrington, meaning the Dubliner is still well placed to capitalise should Alker fail to reproduce the scoring on the final day.
Alex Cejka is solo second at -13, one ahead of Harrington, who is tied with Thongchai Jaidee at -12. Ernie Els and Vijay Singh are among the quartet tied fifth at -11 and Bernhard Langer is one further adrift at -10.
Of Alker’s -17 tally, unusually, he’s -14 on the front side and just -3 on the back, but with a four-stroke lead, he’s unsurprisingly not concerned.
“I’ll get the back nine tomorrow,” he joked after his round. “No, I’ve just been lucky to, I don’t know what the word is, but to get the putts — every day I’ve been 4 or 5 under through seven. I haven’t been hanging on, I’ve still been hitting some super shots on the back and I’m hitting targets, there’s just a stretch that you’ve just got to buckle up and hit some shots and take pars. Par is good.”
Meanwhile, Darren Clarke fell two places to T29 with a one-over 72. The day began brightly for the Portrush man and three birdies in his opening six holes took him to -4 for the tournament, but four bogeys on the six-hole stretch from eight to 13 undid all the early work and he’d trade one more birdie with another bogey on the way home, the round summing up Clarke’s recent form.