Padraig Harrington completed an incredible second round comeback to storm into contention for the US Open title at terrifying Torrey Pines.
A massive 10 shots off the lead after a nightmare opening 78, the Open champion turned his fortunes around in sensational fashion when he blasted a bogey-free, best of the week 67 to move within four shots of the clubhouse lead on three-over par.
“I made four birdies yesterday and I said to myself, if I can make four more today and keep the rest of it tidy, I knew I’d have a good score,” Harrington said.
“I was aiming for 69 but 67 is a nice return, it even felt like it might have been one or two better than that. Another two of those on the weekend will do me very nicely.”
His four-under par effort left him just four-strokes adrift of DJ Trahan and playing partner Davis Love III, who took advantage of perfect early morning conditions to card fine 69s and set a target of one-under par 141 with Luke Donald, Geoff Ogilvy, Robert Allenby and Ernie Els a shot further back on level par.
Up more than 70 place to 33rd when he finished and 11th in the clubhouse, Harrington could expect to end the day inside the top 20 with the Pacific winds and firm greens set to cause havoc for the afternoon starters such as joint overnight leader Justin Hicks and superstars Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
But it was already nightmare day for most of the other European stars with Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Colin Montgomerie, Ian Poulter, Nick Doughery and defending champion Angel Cabrera set to miss the cut.
Harrington, though, was sitting pretty in the clubhouse after rediscovering the short game brilliance that had deserted him on the opening afternoon.
Delighted with his score, Harrington said: “Strangely I felt like I played better yesterday when it was very difficult on the greens in the afternoon.
“They dried up and the sun was out and they were only going one way from there. It was putting a lot of pressure on the rest of my game, every time I hit a slightly off shot I was making at least a bogey.
“I came out today and played nicely, maybe not as good in terms of striking. I had the odd missed shot but I was holing the putts that I was missing yesterday.
“I still made four birdies like yesterday but just holed the odd par putt here and there. When you are doing that, it makes it so much easier to hit your shots into the greens.
“You are so much more accepting of the odd bad shot you hit when you are holing the putts and that was what I did today.”
Compared to the first round, when he had three double bogeys and 32 putts, Harrington did little little wrong yesterday.
He hit 12 of 18 greens compared to eight in the first round, drove the ball well and crucially took just 27 putts compared to 32 in that seven-over par 78.
Having played the back nine in five over par 41 on Thursday, he started there yesterday and improved by seven shots.
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.
A free drop from casual water at the 14th, where he was buried in deep rough, helped him reach the front of the green from a better lie and save 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 lob wedge stone dead and tapped in for par to keep his momentum going.
With the tee pushed up on the par-five 18th, Harrington hit a 230-yard hybrid to 15 feet but missed the lightning fast eagle chance.
He still turned in two under to get back to five over for the tournament and could have gone even lower than 67 with a bit more luck with the putter on the way home.
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 projected cut mark.
One of the key moments of the day came when he was bunkered at the tough fifth, but 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-over for the championship.
Harrington was not convinced that the leaders would face as tough an afternoon test as he faced on Thursday.
But he didn’t reckon it would be easy either, explaining: “The pins seem a bit easier today to be honest but they always do when you shoot 67!
“They are going to be tougher for the guys than what they played yesterday morning, but I don’t think they will be as tough as they were yesterday afternoon.”
What a difference a day makes.
As Harrington explained: "When I dropped the putt on the 12th (his third) everthing was happy in my world whereas yesterday I was on the edge.
"In the first round I hit some good shots that ended up in bogeys and double bogeys and you’re never very positive with that. I felt like I was never going to make a bogey on this golf course today.
"I hope I’m in contention. I don’t want anyone going too far away, but certainly I feel that I am within range and that another two 67s will do the job."
Thoroughly deflated after his opening round, Harrington confessed that he tried to remain on an even keel and got rewarded.
He said: "I kept my spirits up good yesterday, all through the round. Obviously when I finished, I was tired and fairly deflated. It knocked the stuffing out of me actually.
"But during the round I stayed positive and I came out today trying to stay positive and have a good attitude and to stay upbeat.
"I went out to hit the shots and find it and play from there rather than trying to work it all out. My attitude was the same, tried to play the same strategy.
"It’s just that today I got on a nice run and yesterday I got on a bad run. Maybe in another week the two of them would have been average and I’d be shooting both scores around par rather than one high and one low."