Padraig Harrington gave his Open Championship chances a shot in the arm by cruising into a comfortable six-shot lead heading into the final round of the Irish PGA at The European Club.

The Open champion dropped two shots early on but bounced backed to card a one-under par 70 and top the leaderboard on level par from 1995 Ryder Cup hero Philip Walton.

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 while he is taking nothing for granted in terms of racking up his fifth domestic crown, Harrington declared himself happy with his preparations as he counts down to his defence of the old Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale next week.

"I was trying hard to get it back under par which was the target for the day and I was close enough to that," Harrington said after a round that featured an eagle, two birdies and three bogeys.

"There wasn't too much wind but enough to make you think on every shot. So this is ideal preparation.

"I am certainly not unhappy. I am looking forward to doing a bit of work with Bob Rotella next week and just settling down a  few issues in my own head. This week has been good and I would like to be more like this all the time."

As for his chances of lifting the Irish PGA for the fifth time, Harrington was positive about the outcome without sounding overconfident.

He said: "It is not a foregone conclusion. 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."

Walton failed to make a birdie in a two-over par 73 and at six-over par, he knows he will need to hole more putts to have any chance of taking his fifth Irish title.

Walton said: "I'd be happy if I could start holing a few putts. 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. 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).