Pádraig Harrington will lock horns with Steve Stricker in a battle of the 2021 Ryder Cup captains in the final round of the Kitchenaid Senior PGA Championship.
Harrington is one shot ahead on sixteen-under-par after a 68 while Stricker roared into the mix with a 64 to climb to within one with Stewart Cink three back on thirteen-under.
Senior Open champion Darren Clarke shares fourth place with Robert Karlsson and 2009 PGA winner YE Yang on nine-under.
Harrington was on course for the 54-hole scoring record and a handsome lead at Fields Ranch but a double bogey on 16 has left the door open for Stricker who matched Harrington’s opening 64 and Cink.
2009 Open champion Cink had a hole in one on the par-3 13th to aid his cause for a maiden senior major on his first Champions Tour start.
Three-time major winning Harrington remained the only player in the field without a bogey before a six at the par-4 16th after needing two shots to escape the green side native area. Suddenly his five shot lead had been whittled down to one and the pair were level when Stricker birdied 18.
Harrington matched the birdie to resume his position at the summit as he looks to become the first wire-to-wire winner of the event since Rocco Mediate in 2016.
The Dubliner admitted the double on 16 came out of nowhere after he had a bit of an issue with the toilet after hitting his tee shot.
“I went in the toilet. The door was locked. Took me a minutes to realize there wasn’t somebody in there, another few, another while to get the door open. I had, as we are on the Champions Tour, I had the longest pee ever. And then I kind of rushed down the fairway and hit my shot. The second shot was kind of innocuous because the pin was so tight I was just playing 15 feet left of it and to be honest, yeah, I just, I wasn’t — I do that sometimes, I just wasn’t focused, I wasn’t into it and I hit a bad shot in the hazard. Disappointed I overplayed — you know, I was trying to get a that up-and-down, so I’m disappointed that my first lie I went under it. The second one was a bad lie so I blast that out. But, yeah, so when you get over 50 it sometimes takes a long time to have a pee. And that was, yeah, that’s my excuse. That’s got to be original, I would assume.
“I certainly could have got a low one in there today and got away from the field. Golf’s like that though, it’s hard to, when you’re leading, I don’t know, the putts just didn’t drop there for awhile. Probably have had the silliest, maybe the most silliest, I come up with the silliest excuse ever for making — I’m glad I broke my par streak. It’s not good not to have made a bogey. That’s not a good thing. I know that sounds strange, so that’s the first thing I’ll say.”
In typical Harrington fashion he wrestled back the momentum on the closing hole.
“It’s always nice to finish with a birdie. It’s an awkward tee shot when it’s a little bit off left and down. I kind of hit a pull cut so there’s no room up left and there’s no room up the right. So it’s a tough shot. But, yeah, I’ve played my second shot for the bunker and was happy to be in there. I practiced that shot. I was pretty confident that I could get it up-and-down. But it’s always nice to birdie the last. It’s always nice to hole a putt on the last. Yeah. So you’re dead right, it creates a bit of momentum, for sure.”
The 51-year-old can add the Senior PGA Championship to his US Senior Open title which he won last year as he looks for his first Champions Tour win of the season.
“I love playing competitive golf where you’re trying to win. I know it’s a major tomorrow and you want to go out there and win majors more than the next event. But in the end of the day we all play for that buzz coming down Sunday evening in with a chance at winning, trying to manage our game, our thoughts. And it is really our thoughts, what we’re thinking, good, bad, indifferent. And that’s why we do it. We put ourselves out there and you would love in a perfect world that there was no drama in it, but the likelihood is at some stage tomorrow it will be a bit of drama and we’ll have to figure it out.”