Padraig Harrington insists that he will use the fans as fuel to power his way to Irish Open glory at Royal Portrush.
The Dubliner cruised comfortably to a second successive 67 to trail leader Gregory Bourdy by just two shots on 10 under and set up his first European Tour win for four years.
And while he’s playing his sixth event in seven weeks as he bids to get back into the world’s top 50 and win a seventh Ryder Cup cap, he knows that fans won’t leave him running on empty in what has been an Irish Open to remember.
Tied for third and flying high on adrenaline, Harrington said: “The US Open took a lot out of me and I’m wary of my energy levels. But I will use the benefit of the crowd to make sure I am well up for it.”
Frenchman Gregory Bourdy leads by one from England’s Mark Foster on 12 under with Harrington tied for third with Italy’s Lorenzo Gagli and Engand’s Paul Waring.
But while he’s now looking like a great bet for the Irish Open and an even better bet for his fourth major win at Royal Lytham in next month’s Open, the 40-year old is prepared to play the waiting game.
With the patience of an expert angler who knows that he’ll land a big one again, Harrington knows that he’ll be back on the winning trail sooner rather than later.
Patiently waiting for the victories to roll around again, Harrington said: “I’ve won three majors and I’ll win more in the future so I have to be patient and let it happen.
“Much as I would love to win at Royal Lytham or this weekend, I know the wins are around they corner and they tend to come like buses - when you get one, a few more arrive quickly.”
The Dubliner is now the red-hot favourite with the bookies - he’s 5/2 with Paddypower.com ahead of 11/2 shot Bourdy - after firing six birdies to get to within two of the lead on 10 under.
But he cleverly turned the focus on the leader, insisting: “It’s very hard for the leader out there with the spotlight on you. When you are chasing you have nothing to lose.
“This golf course lends itself to birdies. Sometimes you see the leader leave a 20 foot putt six inches short. A guy who is two shots behind is always going to have a run at it and Saturday is moving day.”
Having compiled what he considered the finest round of his European Tour career on the opening day, Bourdy joked that his second day 67 was “maybe the second best round of my career” as he moved to 12 under par at the midway stage of the €2million event.
England’s Mark Foster is one stroke off the lead after a flawless round of 67, whilst his compatriot Paul Waring – playing his first European Tour event after a year-long absence with a wrist injury – is in a share of third place on ten under par alongside Italian Lorenzo Gagli (66) and Harrington (67).
Harrington was again taken aback by the record crowds in attendance, with 27,194 lining the fairways of the Dunluce Links to cheer on their heroes including Northern Ireland’s trio of Major Champions, Darren Clarke (four under par), Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell (both five under) – all of whom comfortably made the cut.
Harrington said: “It sounded like an Open Championship coming down 18. The crowds were clapping us from 150 yards short of the green, as they were all day. Particularly on the last six holes, when the rain went away and the umbrellas went down, there was rapturous applause and cheering as we approached the green.
“It’s unique, and it’s great to see. I think all of the players, especially the players down the rankings, aren’t used to this, so they really appreciate it. We all appreciate it, because it’s great to play golf tournaments amongst big crowds.”
The roars will be deafening if Harrington can win the Irish Open for a second time, but a certain Frenchman is determined to gate-crash the party.
The cut fell at two under par with 11 of the 27 strong Irish contingent surviving.
Michael Hoey is tied for 10th, five off the pace on seven under with Rory McIlroy, Paul McGinley and Graeme McDowell on five under.
Shane Lowry, Darren Clarke, Mark O’Sullivan and Simon Thornton are a shot further back, eight shots off the pace.
Mark Murphy and Damien McGrane made the cut by a shot with the Waterville man producing a sensational eagle three at the ninth to survive.
He hit a three wood to 12 feet and holed the putt, one of his few successes on the greens as he added a 73 to his opening 69.
“I putted like Ray Charles,” Murphy said.
Harrington, though, is playing like Mozart.