Padraig Harrington was at his aggressive best in Connecticut on Saturday when he changed chip following the discipline of the US Open at The Olympic Club and fired eight birdies in a five under 65 to challenge for the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands.
Despite short-siding himself to run up a disappointing bogey at the 18th, the Dubliner goes into the final round just three strokes behind leaders Brian Davis and Roland Thatcher on nine under par, knowing that he will have to go on the attack yet again if he is to end his four-year PGA Tour drought.
Whether or not he has enough energy left in the tank following last week’s mentally and physically gruelling test, where he finished tied fourth behind Webb Simpson, remains to be seen.
But the 40-year old admitted that he surprised himself that he was so drawn to hitting straight at the pins in Hartford having being forced to play so many conservative shots last week.
Buoyed by a magical run that saw him follow a bogey at the fourth with seven birdies in eight holes, including five on the spin from the fifth, Harrington said: “Seven out of eight, eight out of ten holes I made birdies, which is always nice. You feel like there’s birdie opportunities out there with the greens being so soft.
“I can’t get away from flags, but on 18 I couldn’t get it into the middle of the green, I had to go with the pin. It’s that kind of course. It draws you in. You want to make birdie and if the pins are placed, you’ve got to hit some good shots.
“It’ll be interesting tomorrow if I can hit the right shot at the right time, but certainly all week I seem to a gene kicking in where I can only go at every pin out there.”
Harrington was forced to play 31 holes on Saturday following Friday’s weather problems. But he showed few signs of obvious fatigue as he picked up four birdies only to bogey the 18th for a three under 67.
His third round was a clinic of attacking play and after dropping a shot at the fourth, he birdie five in a row from the sixth by holing putts from five feet, eight feet, 20 feet, 16 feet and 10 feet and then followed a par at the 11th with birdies from 15 feet at the 12th and four feet at the par-five 13th to get to within a couple of shots of the lead.
Short-sided in sand let of the pin at the 14th, he bogeyed there but then birdied the 15th from six feet, saved par from seven feet at the next ony to bogey the last.
With the top 19 players on the leaderboard covered by just five strokes, Harrington knows he may have to go low again today.
But he appears to have the confidence in his putting now to pull it off, having struggled with that part of his game for well over a year.
Explaining his recent good play, Harrington said: “Certainly for a good while I haven’t been putting well. I’m just putting better. I’m holing the eight‑footer for par, which keeps the round going. And I think that’s been the big difference.
“I’ve been playing well of late, certainly for a good while. I’m getting more out of my rounds, and that’s always a nice feeling.”
As for his physical and mental state, he admitted that he was tired.
“I guess there is fatigue,” he said. “I played 31 holes today. You know, I’ve struggled all week, after coming off a really, really tough testing course last week where every shot you par save and a lot of good shots into the middle of the green.
“This week I just can’t seem to not look at a flag. I can’t aim at the middle of the green. I can’t aim away from it. You’d think after last week aiming at so many middle of the greens I’d be saying this week I can’t go at flags. It’s a strange week. I’m struggling to not go at every single pin out there.
“I don’t have any risk assessment there. I’ve just been going at everything. Yeah, I suppose that is a relief from last week. It’s not always the right shot just to go blindly at everything.”
Leaders Davis (64) and Thatcher (65), who are seeking their maiden PGA Tour wins, are just a stroke clear of John Rollins (65), James Driscoll (66) and Stuart Appleby (67) with Harrington tied for sixth with Matt Kuchar (66), Tim Clark (66), Charley Hoffman (67), Will Claxton (69) and Fredrik Jacobson (70).
Masters champion Bubba Watson (65) is in a four way tie for 12th with Camilo Villegas, Chez Reavie and Robert Karlsson with US Open champion Simpson (68) just five shots off the pace on eight under alongside brendon de Jonge, Brandt Jobe and Blake Adams.
“Who knows what it’s going to take to win the tournament tomorrow,” Harrington said. “I’m certainly playing well enough to do it, but you’ve got to play well and hole the putts and things have got to fall into place.
“It might take a 63 and a 63 might not be good enough. So I’ve just got tp go out there and go with the cliche and play one shot at a time.”
As for the wrist injury he suffered returning to the clubhouse in a cart on Friday, Harrington said that early icing had prevented it becoming an issue.
“if you ice it straightaway, it doesn’t become anything,” he said. “You can be careless. If you ice it within the first minutes, it makes a big difference. I don’t know if there was going to be an issue, but there’s no issue now.”