By Brian Keogh
It's not quite a case of mission accomplished but Padraig Harrington believes he is right on track with his Open Championship preparations after moving into an impressive six-shot lead in the Ladbrokes.com Irish PGA.
A fifth domestic crown looks like a foregone conclusion for the world number 13 as he partners 1995 Ryder Cup hero Philip Walton in today's final round at The European Club.
But after struggling early in his second round yesterday, dropping two shots in the first four holes before recovering to card a one-under par 70 for a level par total, he knows that he can't afford to get overconfident on the punishing Brittas Bay track.
"It is not a foregone conclusion," Harrington said. "The fact is, Philip or anybody else could have a good day and I could have an average day
"I would hope that I can win from this position. But if it was a foregone conclusion, they could give me the trophy now.
"I could wake up in the morning with a sore neck, you never know. Even golfing wise it is not too hard to go out there and shoot 75 in reasonable conditions. I was two over after four today."
After going to the turn in two-over par, Harrington moved well clear of the field when he reduced the par five 13th to a three-wood, five-iron and an eight foot putt.
He then birdied the par-four 17th from 15 feet to get back to level par for the championship as Walton failed to make a birdie in a two over par 73 that left him alone in second place on six-over par.
The pair will go head-to-head for the first time since Harrington edged out his fellow Dubliner by a shot to lift the 2004 Irish PGA at St Margarets and Walton is aware that he must sweep up with the broomhandle putter if he is have any chance of causing an upset.
"I'd be happy if I could start holing a few putts," said four-time champion Walton. "I'll give him a run. He's not going to come here and get it easy."
Waterville's David Higgins carded just the third sub-par round of the championship when he fired a two under par 69 to move into a share of third place with Eamonn Darcy (73) and Robert Giles (75) on eight-over par.
Ladbrokes.com Irish PGA Championship, The European Club (Par 71)
After 54 holes
213 P Harrington (Unattached) 75, 68, 70.
219 P Walton (Unattached) 73,73,73;
221 D Higgins (Waterville) 80,72,69; E Darcy (La Sella) 75,73,73; R Giles (Greenore) 73,73,75;
222 J Dignam (Slade Valley) 78,72,72;
223 G Robinson (Coollattin) 77,73,73; E Brady (Clontarf GC) 74, 72, 77.
224 W O'Callaghan (Carrighdoun GR) 75,76,73;
226 D Mortimer (Team Ireland) 74,78,74; B McGovern (Headfort) 76,74,76; D Mooney (Nevada Bobs) 80,71,75;
228 E Tracey (Ballina) 76,78,74; M Staunton (Black Bush) 81,74,73;
230 S Thornton (Royal Co Down) 77,77,76; J Kelly (St Margaret's) 76,75,79; M Collins (Mallow DR) 72,77,81;
232 G Burke (Curragh) 78,77,77;
234 D McNamara (Portmarnock) 82,76,76; C McVitty (Bundoran) 78,78,78; P Martin (Riverside Academy) 79,74,81;
235 A Murray (Greystones) 84,75,76; J Dwyer (Ashbourne) 78,81,76; J Langan (Leopardstown Golf Ctr) 79,78,78;
237 J Geraghty (Old Conna) 83,78,76; J Heggarty (Claremorris) 80,76,81;
238 C Mallon (Narin & Portnoo) 81,79,78; B Kelleher (Golf Works Cork) 84,73,81; G Lunney (Naas) 76,78,84; I Kerr (Carlow DR) 82,74,82;
239 J Foster (Greenacres) 81,79,79; E O'Connor (Kilkenny) 71,88,80; M Mulryan (Athenry) 84,73,82;
240 L Walker (Dundalk) 82,79,79; DP (Royal Portrush) 82,77,81; T Higgins (TH Golf) 75,81,84; S Deegan (Spawell) 79,74,87;
241 J Fay (Co Meath) 80,80,81; F Howley (Carton House) 87,73,81; B Kerley (Greenlife GR) 86,74,81; P Jones (Coollattin) 78,80,83; K O'Neill (Co Sligo) 75,81,85;
242 D Hughes (Portadown) 82,78,82; K Grealy (Athlone) 81,79,82;
243 D Byrne (Unattached) 78,80,85;
244 M McTernan (Co Sligo) 80,78,86; J Bolger (KilkennY) 77,80,87;
245 J Murray (Malahide) 79,81,85; ;
246 P Hanna (Fortwilliam) 81,80,85;
NR N Graham (Kirkistown Castle).