Harrington comes back from dead

From Brian Keogh in San Diego

Padraig Harrington came back from the dead to revive his US Open hopes in amazing style at Torrey Pines.

Looking odds on to miss the cut for the second year on the trot after a nightmare 78, the Dubliner took advantage of perfect early conditions at to scorch through the field thanks to a best of the week 67.

The short game brilliance that had deserted him on the opening day returned like an old friend on another sun-splashed day as the Open champion sprinkled four birdies with 14 pars in an impressive four-under par effort.

He finished the day just four shots adrift of his playing partner Davis Love, who hit a 69 to match clubhouse leader DJ Trahan on one-under par

With joint first round leader Justin Hicks facing torrid afternoon conditions and stars Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods yet to tee off, Harrington was looking good to finish the day inside the top 20.

Starting on the back nine in overcast conditions, the Open champion improved by seven shots on his closing nine in the first round when he went out in two-under par 34.

Then he stormed home in 33 for a 67 that gives him an outside chance of equalling a record comeback from first round disaster by a winner.

That was set by Walter Hagen in 1919, when he also opened with a seven over par 78 before taking the second of his US Open titles at Brae Burn in Massachusetts.

After solid pars at the 10th and 11th and a great sand save from 18 feet at the 12th, Harrington birdied the 614-yard 13th, when he spun a 120-yard wedge back to just 15 feet and canned the putt.

He then used the rules to his advantage at the tricky 14th, where he was buried in deep rough but got free drop from casual water caused by a sprinkler, and then fired a seven-iron from a clean lie to the front edge before two-putting for par.

After shaving the hole with a 50 footer at the 15th and two putting safely at the par-three 16th for another par, he kept him momentum going at the 17th, where his approach rolled down the slope fronting of the green.

Left with a tricky, 30-yard pitch over a bunker, he stopped a superb lob wedge within 18 inches and tapped in for par.

With the tee pushed up on the par-five 18th, Harrington hit a 230-yard hybrid to 15 feet but had to settle for birdie after his slippery, eagle chance slipped by the hole.

Turning in 34 - seven shots better than he managed in the first round - he continued to impress on the back nine.

After leaving a 12-foot birdie chance on the lip at the first, he almost holed his approach at the second and tapped in from three feet to get to three under for the day and inside the top 60 and ties who make the cut.

Bunkered at the fifth, he splashed out to 10 feet and rolled home the putt to keep his momentum going.

But he wasn’t finished yet, rapping in an 18 footer for his fourth birdie of the day at the 461-yard seventh to get to four under for the day and three under for the championship.

The Dubliner began the day tied for 112th place on seven-over par - ten shots behind leaders Justin Hicks and Kevin Streelman - after a 78 that equalled his worst score of the year.

The afternoon starters were left to face the kind of conditions that had cost Harrington dear in the first round.

With the greens firm and crusty in gusting Pacific winds, he went to the turn in two-over par 37 but struggled badly on the way home.

Asked about his chances of posting a score in the morning, Harrington said: “I am certainly not looking to play any better than I did today but I will be quite happy to hole a few putts and get a few breaks to help keep my momentum going in the round.

“It is certainly doable and the greens will be a lot better in the morning too. So a good score is definitely on.”

Turns out he was right.