The European Tour needs Padraig Harrington - the man who could have shot a 59 in the Portugal Masters on Friday afternoon but settled, albeit reluctantly, for a 10 under par 62.

What a pity we only get to see him five times a year on European soil (six if you count the Irish PGA).

If ever there was a man born to be Mr 59, it's Harri Putter.

Just look at what he's done for Europe already. 

Without his three major wins in little over two years, the European Tour would still be clinging to Paul Lawrie's now decade old victory in the 1999 Open. 


Quite apart from the stunning, 10-birdie round that has moved him into third place at Vilamoura, he's already done more for the tour this week than many do in years.

On Thursday night, he gave up his usual evening pursuits to sit down with his peers on the Tournament Committee and thrash out a plan that should keep sponsors and players happy next season.

Apparently it was Robert Karlsson who came up with the idea of a points system that boils down to this: play most of the big money European events and you will be fine. Skip Wentworth, Paris, Killarney and the Dunhill you'll have to make up for it by playing a lot of smaller of events in Asia and elsewhere. 

Harrington certainly got the debate going by wondering aloud of a draconian tightening of the rules on membership might be going a bit too far.

Invariably entertaining, brutally honest and wonderfully quirky, he can also be maddening at times. As a man who will readily confess that he loves a good argument, he is liable to present both sides of an argument at the same time and laugh.

He often stops mid-sentence to rephrase and if you haven't witnessed an interview in person, the transcript has a stream of consciousness feel that can be confusing. 

Like a man sizing up a putt from every angle, he invariably finds a nuance that keeps him amused. 

TV Interviewer: You came of that meeting last night with a big smile on your face.

PH: I went in there with a big smile on my face.

As always with Harrington, there are changes. This week he used an old putter.

Asked which one, he said: "The old new one that I was using three months ago. Not the old old one. That’s a quarter of an inch too long.” 

Classic Harrington. He's different to most.

He can shoot a 75 and proclaim that he has played fantastic golf. On other days a 69 will leave him feeling suicidal about some aspect of his game.

It's a quirk that his late father understood but felt might be better kept under wraps. Still, Harrington felt a twinge of regret in Portugal that he has let slip a golden opportunity to become the first man to shoot a 59 in a European Tour event.

He had a putt on the 18th for a 61 but left it short and "only" equalled the two 62s he's scored in the course of a 13 year European Tour career.

"I mishit it. Pity I didn't give it a better run," he said of the 18 footer that came up short. "I played the tough holes really well and that gave me the opportunity to shoot a really good score. It could even have been the magic number."

Have set off 12 strokes behind the leader, Francesco Molinari, Harrington went out in 31 and came home in 31for his 62. He also failed to birdie some of the easier holes, such as the 357-yard second, where Shane

Lowry holed his second shot for an eagle two en route to a 65.

“It was a strange day,” he said. “I played the tough holes really well and that allowed me to make a good score. It was nice to get a run of birdies at the end (he had five in six holes from the 12th) and if I had shot six or seven under par, I’d have been disappointed. I made some mistakes but they didn’t cost me anything.”


Harrington believe he must win two of his last four events to catch Race to Dubai leader Rory McIlroy. So far so good.

The Holywood talent, who says he's  80 percent sure he won't take up his PGA Tour card next year, had another bad day on the greens and a 70 was only good enough to sneak under the four under par cut mark with a shot to spare.

Lowry is tied for 11th on 9 under with Peter Lawrie (68), Damien McGrane (67) and Gareth Maybin (67) on 8 under, Darren Clarke (68) 7 under and McIlroy and McGinley (69) on 5 under.

With his tour card on the line, Gary Murphy missed the cut by a shot despite carding five birdies in his last seven holes for a 69. 

He moved three places up the money list to 117th thanks to the withdrawal of Lin Wen-Tang, Mike Weir and Zach Johnson from the Race to Dubai stakes but his future will hinge on a decent performances in next week's Castellon Masters and the Hong Kong Open.

As for Graeme McDowell, the Ulsterman confessed that he lacked spark and motivation as he signed for a 71 that left him five shots outside the cut mark on one over.

Ranked 52nd in the world, he said in Vilamoura that he's unlikely to go to Castellon next week.

Needing a win to make the HSBC Champions, he's got just three more chances to make sure of his top 50 ranking by Christmas. That would ease the pressure at the start of 2010, when the race for Ryder Cup places begins in earnest.

129: F Molinari (It) 63, 66.



130: C Schwartzel (SA) 65, 65.

131: P Harrington 69, 62.

132: R Goosen (SA) 68, 64; P Martín (Sp) 66, 66.

133: A Forsyth 65, 68; L Westwood 66, 67; Á Quirós (Sp) 68, 65.

134: S Khan 66, 68; O Fisher 67, 67.

135: R J Derksen (Neth) 68, 67; J Kingston (SA) 71, 64; J Edfors (Swe) 69, 66; A Wall 68, 67; J Rose 65, 70; S Dodd 71, 64; M Warren 68, 67; S Lowry 70, 65.

136: D McGrane 69, 67; G Maybin 69, 67; M Siem (Ger) 67, 69; B Curtis (US) 68, 68; Peter Lawrie 68, 68; P Hanson (Swe) 71, 65; R González (Arg) 69, 67; T Goya (Arg) 70, 66; M Tunnicliff 68, 68; B Dredge 66, 70.

137: J-F Lima (Por) 67, 70; O Wilson 67, 70; S Drummond 68, 69; D Willett 69, 68; D Clarke 69, 68; S Dyson 70, 67; M Fraser (Aus) 70, 67.

138: J-B Gonnet (Fr) 68, 70; S Webster 71, 67; F Delamontagne (Fr) 69, 69; L Oosthuizen (SA) 69, 69; D Lynn 71, 67; J Bickerton 69, 69; P Broadhurst 70, 68; P Larrazábal (Sp) 70, 68; R Rock 70, 68; R Cabrera Bello (Sp) 71, 67.

139: S Kapur (India) 69, 70; C Montgomerie 68, 71; M Vibe-Hastrup (Den) 66, 73; P Hedblom (Swe) 69, 70; R McIlroy 69, 70; T Bjorn (Den) 72, 67; T Remkes (Neth) 71, 68; A Cañizares (Sp) 71, 68; P McGinley 70, 69.

140: A Hansen (Den) 69, 71; M Ilonen (Fin) 71, 69; J Sandelin (Swe) 72, 68; P Waring 69, 71; P Price 68, 72; R Jacquelin (Fr) 71, 69; T Jaidee (Thai) 73, 67; D Vancsik (Arg) 70, 70; G Lockerbie 73, 67; A Noren (Swe) 70, 70; S Micheel (US) 70, 70; M Á Jiménez (Sp) 70, 70; F Zanotti (Par) 71, 69; I Garrido (Sp) 69, 71; R McGowan 69, 71.