He didn’t claim top marks for technical merit but Padraig Harrington conjured some short game magic to post a five under par 67 at Pebble Beach in the second round of the AT&T National Pro-Am.
Just a week after missing the cut in the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles, the Dubliner produced a vintage scoring performance to card his first bogey free round of the year and trail a sextet of leaders by just two strokes on eight under par at the halfway stage.
The key to his position on the leaderboard has been his performances on the par fives with eight of his 11 birdies in the first two rounds coming on the long holes.
None of those birdies was more significant that the four he made at the 513-yard sixth, where he drove into the Pacific Ocean and took a penalty drop before chipping in from 38 yards short of the green for an unlikely birdie that kept his momentum going.
Having made four at the second where his 12 foot eagle putt failed to drop, the Dubliner confessed that his birdie at the sixth set him off and running.
He said: “I am very happy. I didn’t play like I shot a bogey free round. I hit a lot of nice shots out there to make some birdies but I also got in trouble. I hit it in the water on six and chipped in there for birdie and that was a big momentum builder in the round.
“After having a good start, it looked as though I was going to be level par after six holes. Instead I chipped in and I am two under and I really didn’t look back from there.”
He got up and down from greenside sand at the eighth, chipped and putted for another par from left of the ninth and then holed a 21 footer at the 11th to get to three under for the day.
On another day he would have been disappointed with a par the 573-yard 14th, but this time he was beaming.
“Yeah. I got very sloppy on 14. I felt I was playing well and hit a careless drive (into sand), got mud on the ball and didn’t hit a great next shot (into the right rough). I was afraid of the flyer out of the rough and hit it in the bunker.
“I hit a good bunker shot and squeezed the (four foot) putt in the left lip. That’s what you do the day you are bogey free. I know that by now. Some days you just get the breaks and other days you have to stay patient when it’s not happening.”
Regarded as one of the best wedge players in the game, Harrington hit a 113 yard approach inside three feet from rough at the 15th to get to four under for the day before flashing a 98-yard approach to just one foot 10 inches at the last to set up birdie number five.
“You know, it was a great day to score,” he said. “When I actually finished, I actually had to total up the score. I wasn’t sure what it was, so that’s always a good sign.
“It shows I was enjoying the day and very much in the moment, and, you know, not getting too much into the results. All those cliches that you’re meant to do when you’re playing golf.”
Asked to compare his first round 69 at Spyglass Hill with Friday’s 67, Harrington suggested that he had squeezed the maximum out of his game on both days.
“I chanced at Spyglass early on and missed a lot of putts, and then didn’t play great coming home and chipped in at the last and things like that. So the 69 a Spyglass was a little bit of a steal at the end of the day.
“So I walked off the golf course in a different sense - you know, today I was still a little bit erratic, but I felt like I got the most out of it with 67. But yesterday with the finish I had, it was a bit of a - with the chip-in on the last and I could have taken bogey, I definitely walked off the golf course feeling like I got one over the course that day.”
Far from declaring his game 100 percent following last season’s swing tinkering, Harrington added: “Why I finished last year strong was because I stopped tinkering. The reason I stopped was so that I could do the work during the winter.
“I did some good work during the winter. It is not bedded in yet that’s for sure. I closed the range every night in LA and every night this week. It is dark when I am leaving. While I am happy with what I have worked on, I am not looking for anything. It’s not quite there. It is a little bit complicated at the moment. It is not quite flowing.”
Defending champion Dustin Johnson shot a two-under 68 at the Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s Shore Course to share the lead on 10-under par with compatriots Bryce Molder, Paul Goydos and J.B. Holmes, as well as Germany’s Alex Cejka and Matt Jones of Australia.
Former world number one David Duval was a stroke behind the leaders after shooting a 68 at Pebble Beach Golf Links with Harrington in a three-way tie for eighth with Americans DJ Trahan and Alex Prugh.
A 64 moved Harrington and his partner JP McManus up from tied 39th to tied 16th in the pro-am standings, which is seven strokes behind leader Paul Goydos and his partner.
Dermot Desmond (who had Rory McIlroy’s caddie JP Fitzgerald on the bag) and South Africa Retief Goosen slipped from tied 15th to tied 56th after a 69. Goosen shot a level par 72 in the professional tournament to share 73rd place on three under par.