Fred Couples at Riviera (courtesy

Padraig Harrington remained in contention for his first PGA Tour win in two and a half years when battled through tough conditions to card a level par 71 in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera.

The Irish star, who has fallen from third to 35th in the world since he captured the US PGA Championship in August 2008, finished his second round in conditions more akin to Rosses Point than sunny California.

As one of the late starters, Harrington finished in howling winds and driving rain just before the second round was suspended due to darkness at the Los Angeles venue.

Conditions were so tough that he was forced to hit a driver (259 yards) and a three-wood (209 yards) to the 475-yard par-four 18th before two-putting for his par.

“I can’t remember the last time I hit a three-wood into a par four,” Harrington said.

As 51-year old Riviera specialist Fred Couples hits a bogey free 66 to take the lead on eight under par, Harrington birdied the first and third to move to within three shots of top spot.

Ups and downs followed but one suspects that the Dubliner will be happy not to have blown his chances of victory after a tough day that saw Luke Donald follow his opening 68 with a 79 to miss the cut.

He bogeyed the par-three fourth for the second day in a row and the dropped another shot at the short sixth, where he one of many players to stymie himself behind the bunker in the middle of the green with the hole cut in the back left quadrant.

He hit back straight away with birdies at the seventh and eighth to share fourth place on five under before taking a double bogey six at the 13th, where he hooked his tee shot out of bounds.

The last five holes where a grind as rain lashed the course but Harrington’s bad-weather DNA kicked in and he finished with five pars to end the day tied for 14th place, five strokes behind Couples on three under.

As for Couples, the US Presidents Cup captain this year, it appears that age is no barrier to good play on a course you love.

Doug Ferguson of AP reported:

It helped that he (Couples) knocked in an eagle putt of nearly 100 feet on his opening hole, along with two 30-foot birdie putts. But even for a 51-year-old well past his prime, he was carried along by a languid swing and his love for Riviera in Pacific Palisades (Los Angeles County).

“I feel like I can play this course blindfolded,” Couples said.

Some of his peers couldn’t believe what they saw.

“He played like he was my age,” said 25-year-old Anthony Kim, who was paired with Couples and nine shots behind. “He just knows what he’s doing out here.”

Couples, who won at Riviera in 1990 and ‘92, stood at 8-under heading into what could be a soggy weekend. J.B. Holmes and John Senden were two shots back. Spencer Levin of Elk Grove (Sacramento County) also was at 6-under with three holes left when play was suspended.

Just don’t expect Couples to start tweeting about his efforts this week. He’s happy to let his scores speak for themselves.

Couples joked: “Right, well, what information do I have for my 500,000 followers? No, what do I have for them? I’m 51, I live in the desert. They all know that already. If you guys write well enough, they’ll know that I’m in good shape going into tomorrow. I don’t need to Tweet anybody. (Laughter.)”