Padraig Harrington pumps his fist after cleaning up a poor day with an eagle worth five points in the Reno-Tahoe OpenAs Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Michael Hoey failed to get into the red at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Padraig Harrington closed with an eagle three at Montreaux Country Club to end up in the black in the Reno-Tahoe Open.

The Dubiner was languishing in the bottom half of the field as he approached the 616 yard 18th. But with aggressive play rewarded this week under the modified stableford format - 8 points for albatross, 5 points for eagle, 2 for birdie, zero for par, minus 1 for bogey and minus 3 for double bogey or worse - he hit an altitude-assisted 403 yard drive and a 205-yard six iron to seven feet and holed the putt with a clench of his fist.

Five points and smiles all round as Harrington soared to 22nd on the leaderboard with seven points, just seven adrift of Argentina’s Andres Romero.

As the local paper pointed on in the gambling town with reference to the new scoring format - black is the new red.

Brian Bateman, for instance, finished the day dead last on -15 with six bogeys and three double bogeys on his card.

Harrington was playing snakes and ladders instead of high stakes blackjack for most of the day as he mixed three birdies (+6) with four bogeys (-4) in his first 16 holes to remain in the bottom half of the field on just two points.

Then came that finish. In strokeplay it would only have been a one under 71 but seven points at least gives him a decent platform to build on as he chases a victory that could propel into the conversation for a seventh Ryder Cup cap next month.

The Northern Irish trio will also be chasing in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where McIlroy and McDowell shot level par 70s and Hoey a dispiriting 78.

Jim Furyk took advantage of fast-running conditions at Firestone Country Club to shoot a seven under 63 and lead by two from England’s Lee Slattery.

McIlroy and McDowell ended the day tied for 31st in the 78-man field alongside seven time Firestone winner Tiger Woods, who had 33 putts in his 70.

For McIlroy and McDowell it was a day of contrasting fortunes.

Having seen his girlfriend thrashed in straight sets by Serena Williams in the quarter-finals of the Olympic Games earlier in the day, McIlroy got off to a poor start with bogeys at the first, second and fourth.

But he remained patient and birdied the par-three seventh and 15th and the par four 10th to keep his title hopes alive.

McDowell was three under after seven on a course that has never suited his game. But he was disappointed not to take advantage of the firm and fast conditions yesterday as he covered his last 11 holes in three over with bogeys at the eighth, ninth 15th and 17th against a birdie at the par-three 12th.

Hoey had a nightmare day that wasn’t helped by seeing the tricolour next to his name on the scoreboard. Starting on the back nine, he opened with three pars but soon lost confidence off the tee and bogeyed the 13th, 14th, 17th and 18th before dropping another four shots on the back nine.

His eight over 78 left him tied for last alongside playing partner Tom Lewis on his WGC debut but he at least disovered that he will have the Ulster banner next to his name today.

Always a erratic player, Hoey has picked an unfortuante time to struggle with his game as he prepares to make his US PGA debut next week.

Tweeting later of the flag mix up, he said: “Thought NIR was tryin’ to tell me something! Tournament Office are on the case for tomorrow.”