By Brian Keogh
Lee Westwood is threatening to take pal Padraig Harrington to the cleaners after a sensational eight-under par 64 sent him scorching up the leaderboard at Adare Manor.
The Ryder Cup star stole Harrington’s putting guru and used his brilliant touch on the greens to take the Dubliner’s course record as well after a round that featured two eagles and five birdies.
Now Westwood is poised to take Harrington’s Irish Open crown into the bargain after moving four shots clear of the Dubliner on seven under par thanks to four birdies and an eagle in his last five holes.
As England’s Richard Finch hit a 65 on the rain-softened Limerick track to top the leaderboard on eight-under, Harrington failed to hole his share on the greens and posted a two-under par 70 to trail by five in a share of 20th place.
After taking 31 putts, Harrington said: “Lee would be a tougher man at the top of the leaderboard. If there were other players up there you wouldn’t be as concerned. But you would expect Lee to perform tomorrow.
“Seven under par is not too far away. But there are a lot of names in front of me that I have to pass tomorrow. It is tough golf course for the leaders and with so many guys in contention if is going to take a really good score tomorrow to win.”
Westwood credited a move to Harrington’s putting coach Paul Hurrion last year for his red-hot play on Adare’s sloping greens.
Out in three under par thanks to a birdie at the fourth and an eagle at the seventh, the 34-year old fell back with a bogey at the par-five 12th before producing a scorching finish.
Birdies at the 14th, 15th and 16th got him moving again before he chipped in for another birdie at the 17th and then holed a 15 footer for an eagle three at the terrifying 18th.
Seeking his first win since last September’s British Masters, Westwood said: “I’m delighted with 64 and it gives me a chance tomorrow. But the thing I am most pleased about is my putting.
“I’ve been working with Paul Hurrion, who is the same guy that Padraig sees in Birmingham. I see him when I’m struggling which is probably the wrong thing to do.”
Five off the pace starting the day, Harrington went to the turn in three under par 33 with a bogey at the short fourth is only mistake.
But he failed to convert his chances coming home with a birdied at the 15th cancelled out by a three-putt bogey at the 13th and another at the 17th, where he was bunkered in two.
Asked if he was frustrated not to break 70 after going out in 33, Harrington said: “I played the good golf the first 11 holes and should have been a lot better. I missed a lot of chances.
“Then I sort of lost my way over the last seven holes. Maybe I was trying too hard and got a little bit frustrated after that.
“Certainly I hit all the golf shots early on in the round so it was a little bit disappointing only to shoot 70.
“It is certainly on out there in these conditions with the greens softened up by the overnight rain. You have just got to get a hot putter.
“I don’t think I could hit it any closer than I did early on today. Where the pins are positioned there is no point in playing safe, you have to fire straight at the pins.
“The leaders could be getting away from me and I could certainly have shot a good bit better. Somebody is going to play well from four or five under par tomorrow and it is going to take a good score by me to win this.
“It is a good golf course for me but I need to get hot and hole the putts. You hit some good putts, they don’t go in and then when you don;t see the ball going in you hit some average putts. It is not as if I am missing four footer.
“I just need to get on a roll and see them going in. Once you start off missing a few, you miss a few more.
“I couldn’t have played much better on the front nine but the better you play the more you are going to have those 15 footers and you get frustrated. Sometimes being scrappy and getting it up and down gives you momentum and you play better that way.
“Lee is a good putter. He is a guy who get the ball in the hole. Paul is very logical with his coaching. I have brought ball a lot of business. I should be getting a cut.”
Kilkenny’s Gary Murphy posted four-under par 68 to move to within four shots of clubhouse leader Finch on four under par and refused to count himself out of the reckoning.
Murphy said: “That’s the best I’ve played all week. It could probably have been a few better but I missed a couple of putts. If it stays the way it is, I am only a few behind and I have a chance.
“Today was moving day as Tiger says. Tomorrow I’d just like to shoot lower than anyone else really.”