Padraig Harrington overcame some “horrible” golf with some trademark putting magic to grab a one stroke lead at the Iskandar Johor Open in Malaysia.
Ireland’s three-time major champion moved closer to ending his two-year victory drought when he hit an eagle and four birdies in a super 67 to head the field on 13-under par at halfway.
The Dubliner struggled with his swing but holed a series of vital putts at Horizon Hills Golf and Country Club to move one clear of Chinese Taipei’s Lin Wen-tang with South Korea’s Lee Sung two shots futher back on 10-under.
Delighted to follow his opening 64 with a five under par effort, Harrington said: “I didn’t play as well as a 67 and I got a few breaks on the back nine.
“After 11 holes, I would have settled for one or two under. Five under is certainly a bonus. I played pretty well yesterday but was horrible today. If anything, I lose a bit of my timing which goes off.”
Starting on the back nine, Harrington birdied the 11th and 17th before taking a bogey six at the par-five 18th.
But he hit back by draining a 35-footer at the third, picked up another shot at the next and then fired a five wood to 25 feet at the par-five sixth and sank a 25 footer for his third eagle of the week.
Despite his 13 under par total, Harrington revealed that he struggled with his swing yesterday and he knows that ending his victory wait won’t be easy.
He confessed: “I struggled quite a lot. I holed a long putt which got my round going a bit, hit two nice shots to make eagle but still had to hole a 25 footer which was a bit of a bonus to come back like that.
“My body gets ahead of my arms. But I’m happy I know what it is and I’m happy to know where my bad shots are coming from.”
Expecting a birdie blitz from the field over the weekend, Harrington has no intention of playing conservatively.
He added: “There’s no point being defensive out there. There are a lot of birdies to be made and I’ve made a few eagles. I’ve got to keep going like that.
“You’ve got to expect to get to around 20 under par tomorrow. I’ve got to keep moving forward, play well and take a lead into Sunday.”
Lin Wen-Tang is Harrington’s nearest challenger on 12 under thanks to a best of the day 65 but the rest of the star names are well off the pace.
KJ Choi is nine behind on four under after a 70 with Colin Montgomerie and Retief Goosen trailing by Harrington by 10 shots after rounds of 71 and 73.
Meanwhile, Harrington warned that increasing the minimum number of European Tour events players must play to earn full membership will make it tougher to attract top international stars.
The tour announced earlier this week that players would have to play 13 events in 2011 - just a year after raising the mark from 11 to 12.
Harrington said the rule change would not affect him personally but added: “It’s making it a lot harder for non-Europeans to be a member. It’s closing up the tour for the Europeans.
“Top, top players who aren’t European are going to struggle to play 13 events.
“There were a couple of the very leading lights of the US tour considering joining our tour when it was 11 but they won’t be able to join now.”