Brian Keogh in California
Padraig Harrington donned his scoring hat in the Target World Challenge to join the chasing bunch battling to keep pace with a rampant Tiger Woods at sun-splashed Sherwood Country Club.
Before embarking on his second round in his season-ending event north of Los Angeles, the Dubliner didn’t have to think long before naming his personal choice for Player of the Year.
“Tiger. I think he had a really good year,” Harrington said. “I think he came back to top form this year. He came back to dominate the sport.”
Like the rest of the world’s elite, Harrington can only look on in admiration when Woods is playing at the top of his form.
The Dubliner rattled off four birdies on the front nine and then grabbed another at the 10th to trail leader Woods by a shot on six under par.
But Woods was in simply irresistible form last night as he followed a four-birdie front nine with an eagle three at the par five 11th and back to back birdies at the 12th and par-five 13th to get to eight under par for the day.
That brilliant rash of red figures left the world number one four strokes clear of overnight leader Jim Furyk on 11 under par with Harrington a shot further back on six under after a three-putt bogey at the 14th killed the momentum he had built up through the day.
The Dubliner got off to the perfect start, rolling in a downhill 10 footer at the opening hole before giving free rein to his scoring instincts. First, he stiffed his approach at the par four fourth to get to three under par and then spun a controlled pitch to within three feet of the flag at the par-five fifth to set up another birdie
The Open champion birdied the ninth from five feet and the 10th from no more than eight feet to get to within a shot of Woods. But the American eased clear of the field with a series of sublime approaches.
Followed by a massive gallery, the American birdied the second and almost knocked out the pin on the par three third before settling for par and then birdied the par five fifth and almost holed his approach at the sixth.
Par saves at the seventh and eighth showed how well he is putting before birdie at the ninth moved him two shots clear of Harrington, Furyk and Zach Johnson. Slamming the door shunt, Woods then rammed in a 25 footer for eagle at the 11th and a 30 footer at the short 12th for birdie to get to 10 under par.
Playing in the group ahead, Harrington had to hole a 10 footer for par at the 12th just to stay in touch and while he holed a five footer for birdie at the par-five 580-yard 13th, Woods two putted calmly for a matching birdie after a majestic 270 yard approach found the green.
Harrington’s first bogey of the day finally arrived at the 14th, where he ran his birdie putt 10 feet past the hole and failed to tidy up. and when he missed a good eight foot chance at the par-three 15th, he remained four shots behind Woods alone in third place on six under par.
Colin Montgomerie produced a remarkable comeback after failing to make even one birdie in a first round 80 when he carded an eagle, five birdies and two bogeys in a second round 67 that still left him at the bottom of the 16-man field on three over par.
“I played two rounds very well and I putted horrendously yesterday,” Montgomerie said, adding, “I’ve missed one fairway in two days and I’m still three under par, which is so disappointing. I get the most improved award.”