seven birdies for Pádraig Harrington finds links rhythm to sweep to a 66 in Scotland
Pádraig Harrington rediscovered his rhythm and rattled in seven birdies in a six-under 66 to surge into contention for the Scottish Championship at Fairmont St Andrews.
Playing for the fourth week on the trot after nearly seven months away from the fairways, Europe’s Ryder Cup skipper combined the straight driving and steady putting of his first three outings with some sweet iron play on the Torrance Course.
His stellar round – his lowest since he returned to action for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open last month – left him tied for fourth, just four strokes behind Spain’s Adrian Otaegui, who made 10 birdies in a bogey-free 62 to lead by three strokes from Matt Wallace and South Africa’s Bryce Easton on 10-under par.
“I couldn’t be happier with how I’m playing at this stage,” said Harrington, who followed a birdie at the second with a bogey at the par-five third before reeling off five birdies in his last 10 holes.
“It’s just a mental thing when you haven’t been on the golf course.
I liked what I saw the first three weeks, that’s why I’m here for the fourth week.”
Harrington complained he was lunging at his irons in the BMW PGA at Wentworth last week, but he rediscovered his rhythm on links terrain.
“When it comes to rhythm you can’t force it, you have to let it come back,” he explained.
“I was very pleased with my irons today, struck them lovely. A lot of good signs, but three more days to do it.
“Thursday is a bit early to be peaking.”
Spaniard Otaegui, 27, said: “I putted really well. I also played very well from tee to green, felt confident and relaxed. Almost everything went well, 62 is really, really good.”
The 27-year-old started with three successive birdies at the first, second and third on his way to reaching the turn in 32.
A further six birdies on the back nine ensured a memorable day for the world number 248, who added: “I felt like a good round could come.
“I didn’t know how good but the last two weeks, even if the results were not very good, I was playing very well from tee to green and feeling good. But the putting wasn’t there.
“But the putter was hot today, that was the main difference.”
It was a mixed day overall for the Irish with Clandeboye’s Jonny Caldwell tied 30th after a 70 and Gavin Moynihan 54th after a 72 as Cormac Sharvin struggled on the back nine and shot 74 and Niall Kearney came back from a dreadful start – five over after four – to scramble a 75.
At the PGA Europro Tour Q-School, Galway’s Ronan Mullarney added a 68 to his opening 69 to lead a seven-strong Irish posse into today’s final round at Studley Wood in Oxfordshire.
Last year’s Irish Close champion, he made five birdies in a four-under-par round at The Oxfordshire to share fourth place on eight-under, just four strokes behind leader Patrick Ruff in the race for 30 top cards.
Stuart Grehan shot 67 and Conor O’Rourke a 68 at Studley Wood to lie joint 17th on seven-under with Cameron Raymond (70) and Eoin Leonard (68) three shots further back on four-under.
Cork’s John Hickey and Shannon’s Danny Brennan both birdied their final holes at Studley Wood to make the two-under-par cut on the mark.
But Paul McBride (one under), amateur Tom McKibbin and Brendan McCarroll (level), Conor Purcell (three over) and Luke Donnelly (nine over) missed out.