Harrington on the brink of glory

By Brian Keogh

World class Padraig Harrington fired a super 71 to take a three-shot lead into the final round of the The Irish Open at Adare Manor

But the Dubliner insists that there is still a long way to go before he can become the first home winner of the title for 25 years.

Leading on four-under par from Welshman Bradley Dredge and England’s Simon Wakefield, Harrington admitted that he hoped to sew up the title yesterday.

He said: “It felt like the final round out there and I said going up 18 that I am going to have to go through all this tomorrow.

“My goal was to try and win it today by shooting 66 and going away from the field. I felt that if I could get a good one in there I could sew this up.

“But that was not to happen. At the end of the day it is not a big enough lead that I can be at all complacent.

“I have to play good golf and play my own game. There is a lot of work to be done tomorrow.”
Aussie Richard Green and South African Louis Oosthuizen are lurking four off the pace on level par with Kells’ Damien McGrane just a shot further back alongside Andres Romero after a brilliant 70.

And while Harrington is still the red-hot favourite, he knows that he cannot afford to lose his focus

The world number 12 showed his intent early on when the rammed home a 25 footer at the first to double his one stroke overnight lead and move to four under par.

But he soon trailed Wakefield by one after a bogey at the short sixth and another at the par-five seventh, where he had to don his waterproofs to play his third from the edge of the lake.

Stoke native Wakefield holed from 12 feet for birdie there and while the two-shot swing left him one in front on two under, it wasn’t long before Harrington got back in front again.

Wakefield bogeyed the 10th, 11th and 14th as Harrington picked up a simple birdie at the par five 12th and another at the 17th before leaving a six-foot chance on the lip at the last.

Wakefield finished with a 73 to join Dredge on one under after the Welshman birdied three of the last four for a best of the day 69.

Dredge said: “I’m right in it now so if I go out tomorrow and compile another good score, I’ll definitely have a chance.”

McGrane, though, was delighted with his efforts and while he’s five shots behind Harrington believes he has every chance of contending for his first European Tour title.

McGrane said: “It’s fantastic. We all dream about being in position to win the Irish Open at such a great venue. It would be great to pull it off here but I’d take any win at this stage.”

Kilkenny’s Gary Murphy is the next best of the Irish on three over par after a rollercoaster 73 that featured five bogeys and two birdies in the last seven.

Murphy said: “I’ve a mountain to climb and unfortunately Padraig is on top of the mountain.

But while it was a good day for Harrington, McGrane and Murphy, the rest of the Irish had a day to forget.
Waterville’s David Higgins saw his chances dented after carding six bogeys and just two birdies in a 76 that dropped him to 20th on five over par.

Dubliner Paul McGinley and Ulsterman Graeme McDowell disappointed with five over par rounds of 77 that left them making up the numbers on nine over par.

Playing alongside McDowell, Limerick secretary manager Pat Murray also failed to shine as he took 79 to crash to 11 over.