By Brian Keogh
Defending champion Padraig Harrington crashed six shots off the pace at Adare Manor but insisted: I’m not out of it.
The tournament favourite was two-under par and cruising with 10 holes to play but had to settle for a level par 72 after losing his focus.
Forced to hole a six footer at his final hole to match par, Harrington said: “A 72 doesn’t look that good when you see six-under par is leading but it is a tough golf course and there’s a lot of golf to be played.
“There were opportunities to be had but I lost my way a little in mid-round and made a few bogeys and then failed to make birdies on the way home.
“I’ve got a little work to do over the next couple of days but I’m certainly not out of the tournament.
“I’ve got to play my best golf and see what that brings me. I’m not happy with the score today but I am happy with the way I played.”
Harrington drove the ball well early on but failed to find his range with the putter until the par-three 16th - his seventh.
Another birdie at the 17th put him two-under par but he pulled his drive into the River Maigue at the intimidating 18th and dropped a shot.
A brilliant 18-foot birdie putt at the first put him back in red figures but after getting away with a sliced drive at the second thanks to a super sand save, he bogeyed the third after being forced to chip out sideways from heavy rough.
Another bogey at the par-three fourth sent him back to level par and he then failed to birdie either of the par fives on the run home.
But he’s not pushing any panic buttons after coming back from a first round 73 to win last year.
Pointing to patience as the key, he said: “I still think it’s going to be a difficult course for anybody up there. You can miss a few fairways here and be hitting wedges out, so it’s a tough course to lead on.
“I just have to keep playing the same way and be patient. I’ll get a couple of runs where the putts drop and make plenty of birdies.
“It’s not like you need to get 20-under par. I’m sure 10-under par would be a very nice return this week.”