From Brian Keogh at Wentworth
Bounty hunter Padraig Harrington is bang on course for the biggest single pay-day in the history of golf.
Buoyed by an incredible eagle at the 17th, the Dubliner fired his second 69 on the trot to lurk just two shots behind leaders Justin Rose and Angel Cabrera on six under par in the BMW PGA at Wentworth.
With billionaire Dermot Desmond underwriting a million euro bonus for the Irish Open - BMW PGA ‘double’, Harrington can walk away with a mouth-watering €1.75 million if he hunts down the title tomorrow night.
And that easily beats the record pay-out of €1.48 million collected by Ernie Els in the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City in 2002.
Eyeing the big prize at stake, Harrington confessed that he had more than a million reasons to put his battle fatigue at the back of his mind over the weekend.
But while he’s enjoying the novelty of the million euro bonus, he insisted that ignoring the money and playing for pride is just part of his job.
Harrington said: “I think about it and I’d like to win it. But at the end of the day, we don’t think about the figure. We don’t see it in hard currency. It’s bank account noughts.
“As a professional golfer, on Sunday afternoons you putt out for such incredible sums of money that if you let it worry you wouldn’t be able to do it at all.
“Yes, it’s there. We have a bit of a laugh about it. Probably the only way to take it is with a bit of humour and we’ve been cracking a few jokes about it.
“But out on the golf course it’s at the back of my mind. I am not going to let hang over me or distract me.”
Distracted or not, Harrington has had fun working out how much you would have to put down with a bookie to win a million on him this week.
After starting the week at 16-1, he beamed: “It’s €62,500. If I have anything to lose it’s €62,500. Obviously I didn’t go in on the action.”
With his odds slashed to 10-1 starting the second round, that stake rose to €100,000.
But after carding an eagle, three birdies and two bogeys in a 69, that figure is now €125,000 with his odds cut to 8-1 to hang on for a famous victory.
After going to the turn in two under par, Harrington birdied the 10th but then three putted the par five 12th for par and failed to get up and down from the back of the 14th.
But with a good round slipping through his fingers, he hit a 260-yard hybrid to five feet at the 17th to set up an eagle three before parring the last.
England’s Paul Casey is just two shot behind Harrington on four under par and he admits that the reigning European No 1 is the man to beat for the Order of Merit this season.
Casey said: “He’s the man I’m going to have to beat to be European No 1. He just has this ability to get a score even when he doesn’t seem too happy.”
While Rose hit a 70 and Cabrera a 66, it was a day to forget for Darren Clarke hit a 76 to follow two withdrawals through injury with his fifth missed cut of the season.
Clarke groaned: “I am just incredibly frustrated with playing poorly. It is not very enjoyable at the minute.
“I am working away and putting the time and effort in but it is just not there at the minute. It is as frustrating a period as I have ever had in my career.
“I am struggling and I am not used to it being as difficult as it is at the moment.”
The last time Clarke had to qualify for a major was for the Open at Ladybank in 1995.
Barring a late change in his schedule, he will no have to qualify for the US Open at Walton Heath on Monday week.
Further down the leaderboard, Dubliner Peter Lawrie cruised into the weekend on one over par after a super 69.
But Damien McGrane left himself too much to do and a 71 was only good enough for a three over par total.
Kilkenny’s Gary Murphy struggled to a second successive 74 to finish well off the pace on four over.
And there was also disappointment for Graeme McDowell as he shot a 75 to finish on five over.