Harrington running out of time in Masters quest
 Pádraig Harrington anxiously watches a putt in the second round at Bay Hill. Picture: Fran Caffrey  www.golffile.ie

Pádraig Harrington anxiously watches a putt in the second round at Bay Hill. Picture: Fran Caffrey www.golffile.ie

Opening with a pair of 70s around Bay Hill would normally leave Pádraig Harrington feeling reasonably content. Just not this year.

Not after a bogey at the last in a tournament he must win to avoid missing the Masters for the first time since his debut in 2000. Not when you end your round six shots behind the world No 1 in waiting. And especially not when that man, Adam Scott, goes on to shoot 68 to leave you 10 shots behind and tied for 16th at the halfway stage of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph after his round, Ireland's three-time major winner admitted that the prospect of watching the Masters in Dublin is "weighing heavily on my mind."

“Normally, after getting to four-under by the halfway stage and being on the brink of the top 10, I would be saying I am building up lovely for the Masters,” Harrington said.

“Yet the problem is I’m not in the Masters - and I won’t be unless I win. Today, I thought I could get myself into the tournament at six-, seven- or eight-under and I played well enough to do that. But I need a bit more.”

Harrington has two more chances to book his ticket to Augusta National by winning the Texas Open or the Houston Open over the next fortnight. In normal circumstances, he wouldn't have played Bay Hill and would be at honing his game for Houston, the week before the season's first major.

Last year he played 10 events before Augusta, compared to seven in 2012, eight in 2011, seven in 2010, eight in 2009, seven in 2008....

If he is forced to both events in Texas, he will have played 10 before Augusta again with the added detail that he has also failed to qualify for two World Golf Championships this year. It's the lot of the world No 152.

 Graeme McDowell had a tough day at the office. Picture: Fran Caffrey  www.golffile.ie

Graeme McDowell had a tough day at the office. Picture: Fran Caffrey www.golffile.ie

“I would not play this many events ahead of a major but I am trying to give myself every chance,” Harrington told the Telegraph. “Yet I know it’s tough to win out here any given week, let alone produce a win on cue.”

He insists his absence from Augusta will not hurt his pride but leave him feeling like he is missing out on a chance to win that fourth major and Ireland's first green jacket.

“Pride would have nothing to do with it, as these guys are good,” Harrington said. “And I don’t particularly care for streaks. I just care for the fact that I may not qualify for the Masters deservedly on merit. If I am sitting at home, I will be feeling pangs of anxiety knowing I’m not there in Augusta with a chance. If you’re not in it you can’t win it. But I would still watch every shot. I love the Masters.”

 Kenny McDowell (right) was out for a stroll at Bay Hill on Friday. Picture: Fran Caffrey  www.golffile.ie

Kenny McDowell (right) was out for a stroll at Bay Hill on Friday. Picture: Fran Caffrey www.golffile.ie

While he is still not putting with anything like the deadly accuracy of his best years, Harrington's ball-striking has been good enough over the first two days at Bay Hill to give himself enough chances to make birdies.

“It’d be a good sign if I was preparing,” Harrington said of his game.

His round was full of good things, such as his 176-yard approach to four feet at the first or the two he made from nine feet at the 196-yard seventh.

Yes, the three putted for bogey from 20 yards at the eighth and failed to get up and down for pars from bunkers at the 14th and 18th. 

But he hit two great shots to set up a two-putt birdie at the 12th and needed just a 10 foot putt to eagle the 16th after a superb 221-yard approach.

Alas, he's waiting now for Masters champion Scott to falter and the Australian is in superb form, despite clumsily three-putting the 18th for just his third bogey of the week.

 Darren Clarke looks younger than ever but his game is not quite where he would like it. Picture: Fran Caffrey  www.golffile.ie

Darren Clarke looks younger than ever but his game is not quite where he would like it. Picture: Fran Caffrey www.golffile.ie

By adding a 68 to his course record equalling 62, Scott is seven shots clear of JB Holmes, Chesson Hadley and Francesco Molinari on seven under par after equalling the tournament record aggregate of 130 for the first two rounds.

Graeme McDowell made the cut comfortably in the end despite finishing double-bogey, bogey at the eighth and ninth for a 77.

He was hovering on the one over par projected cut for a while before it slowly moved out to two over par.

That was still seven shots too much for Darren Clarke, who could manage just one birdie in a 78 for a nine over total and another weekend off.

It's been a mixed week for the Europeans with Welshman Jamie Donaldson (71) tied for fifth as US Open champion Justin Rose missed the cut.

The Englishman was outside by 20 strokes by playing partner Scott, adding a 79 to his opening 71 to miss the cut by four shots.