Padraig Harrington produced a trademark grinding performance to survive the cut in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera.
The 40-year old Dubliner resumed his delayed first round at 7am but missed his six foot par putt at the eighth and then dropped another shot by three-putting the ninth to open with a three-over 74.
That left him eight shots adrift of leader Phil Mickelson and that’s where he remained at the end of his day as he chiselled out a one-under par 70 to sit a stroke inside the projected three-over par cut mark.
Seeking back to back wins, Mickelson had opened with a five-under 66 to lead by one from JB Holmes and Hunter Mahan. And he remained in front despite only carding a one-under 70 on Friday.
The left-hander was one under par through 10 holes after two birdies and a bogey (his dropped shot at the 18th ended a 49-hole bogey free run) but then followed a bogey at the seventh, his 16th, by holing a 110-yard wedge for an eagle two at the eighth before dropping another shot at the last.
The 41-year old is bidding to win for the sixth time in a row after holding the first round lead and he was pleased to lead by one in the clubhouse from Pat Perez (65) with Jimmy Walker (66), Matt Kuchar (69), Carl Pettersson (70) and Jarrod Lyle (65) two behind on four under.
“I probably didn’t play the greatest today, but I was able to kind of salvage a good round and had a good break on eight,” Mickelson said. “That was kind of a nice little bonus.
“I left myself downhill par putts on seven and nine, and that’s really not a good thing to do here. If you’re going to make five or six-footers, you really have to have them uphill where you can hit them aggressive enough to hold the line. They just kind of wobbled off, so I ended up missing those.”
Asked if he was disappointed he had not taken greater advantage of calmer conditions on Friday morning, Mickelson replied: “Maybe, but I also put myself in contention heading into the weekend, which is what my initial goal was. So with 36 holes to go I’m right in the thick of it. I’ve got to go out and shoot some low scores because they’re out there, but I gave myself a good opportunity.”
Describing his eagle, he said:
It was an L‑wedge. I hit a good drive. I had 110 yards, and what I tried to do is if I go at that pin‑‑ again, I’ve been struggling with‑‑ when I expect the greens to release, they’re stopping. When I expect them to stop, they’re releasing. I was afraid if I went at that pin I could easily go long and go all the way down that hill. And rather than take a chance, what I tried to do was kind of sling‑hook an L‑wedge and try to side‑spin it towards the hole when it got on the green, and I felt that would take away‑‑ I could be short or long and be okay. It kind of side spun right in the hole, so it worked out just perfect.
Mickelson felt the poa greens were tough to putt well due to bumpiness, though he preferrred to use another word.
Asked why scores were so high, despite a drop in the wind, he said: “I think one of them was the inconsistency on the greens of being able to judge what the ball is going to do, and I think the other is there was a lot of “unsmoothness” around the hole. I don’t know how‑‑ is there a nice way to say it? So it was tough to really get too aggressive on some of the putts because you just didn’t know where the short ones were going to kick off.”
Needing a win to get back into the world’s top 50 and the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral in two weeks, Harrington again found it tough to score, frequently missing greens and single putting just once for birdie.
His other two gains were two-putt birdies at the par five first and 17th holes but he also had bogeys at the 12th and 16th and was forced to hole numerous three to six foot putts for par.
After two-putting the par-five first for birdie, Harrington chipped dead for par at the second and then holed from four and a half feet at the fourth and five and half feet at the next just to save par.
At the par-three sixth he was stymied behind the famous bunker in the middle of the green but got down in two by holing a six footer for his three.
He missed an eight foot birdie chance at the seventh but then left himself a testing four footer for par at the eighth, which he holed, before missing from 13 feet for birdie at the ninth following a 330-yard drive into the left rough.
He could not afford to make mistakes coming home and a excellent birdie chance escaped him at the driveable 10th, where he came up just short of the front edge but missed a five footer for birdie.
A bad drive into the left trees almost cost him a bogey at the par-five 11th, but he chipped out, put his third in greenside sand and eventually made a six footer for his par five.
However, another poor drive into the left rough at the 479-yard 12th did cost him a shot after he laid up 108 yards from the pin but overshot the green.
Back to three over for the tournament, he needed something good to happen and created it himself by making a fine birdie at the 13th where he bombed a 300-yard drive and a 166 yard approach to six feet to a back left pin.
Forced to get up and down from sand to save his par at the 15th, Harrington buried his tee shot in the front bunker at the 16th, barely making the fringe with his escape.
A bogey four there left him needing a birdie at the par-five 17th to be sure of making the cut and he did that in style with a 254 yard approach and two putts before safely two-putting the treacherous 18th green for a solid finishing four.
It wasn’t such a good day for Harrington’s South African playing partners. Rory Sabbatini shot a nine over 80 and Tim Clark an 11 over 82 to miss the cut on seven over and 16 over par respectively.
Clark was making his first PGA Tour appearance since the Players Championship last May, where a debilitating elbow injury forced him out of the tournament.
“I could tell it wasn’t any good. After that I went in for more MRIs and they told me, it looks like it’s torn,” Clark told golfweek.com.
“It was terrible, I couldn’t lift a club off the ground. At Augusta, I couldn’t pick a club up with my right hand.
“So it’s way better, but I know I need to make things stronger to come out here.”