Harrington two behind in Texas: "... I certainly have a chance"

Almost two months ago, Padraig Harrington watched John Daly shoot 90 in his company and when talking about the American's game he said something one assumes he had clearly been telling himself.

"He's waiting to play well to love the game," the 42-year old said. "But he needs to love the game and then wait to play well."

Harrington has never lost any of his love for the game but while he is loathe to admit to frustration as he endures a worldwide drought that goes back to 2010 [five and a half years if you are talking about the European or PGA Tours], he admitted last night at the HP Byron Nelson Champinship that the last few years haven't been easy.

After adding a four under 66 to his brace of opening 68s to go into the final round at TPC Four Seasons Resort tied for sixth on eight under par but just two strokes behind co-leaders Louis Oosthuizen and Brendon Todd, who lead by a shot from James Hahn, Gary Woodland and former Masters champion Mike Weir.

Did I see it coming? I could have told you I saw it coming many weeks for the last year and it never manifested itself,
— Pádraig Harrington

Having missed six of 10 cuts on the PGA Tour this year and with his putting still in the doldrums, Harrington confessed that the headed for Dallas more in hope than expectation given his recent form.

"Did I see it coming? I could have told you I saw it coming many weeks for the last year and it never manifested itself," he said after overcoming an early bogey with five birdies in a 27 putt round. 

"I have been less optimistic of late so ... I know it is there. My short game hasn't been so strong and I have seen that turning around. And the long game has been there over the last year or so I feel every week could be my week but it just hasnt been happening. 

"I have to try to be patient, try to let it happen and try and enjoy it somewhat. It isn't easy when things aren't going for you, it is hard to enjoy it out there. It's frustrating. But sometimes you have got to enjoy it first and then play well."

Having performed the miracles of old on the greens in the second round, Harrington's performance yesterday was completely at odds with his performances so far this season.

He hit 10 of 14 fairways (71%) when he's been hitting just 55%. He hit 13 of 18 greens (72%) when he's 173rd on tour with 61%, and he had just 27 putts to gain 1.501 on the field compared to his seasonal average of -.05 (180th on tour).

In fact, his three sand saves out of three in the third round, with the final one a beauty on the 18th, put him at 100 percent for the week compared to 45% for the season (139th on tour).

"I played nicely," he said. "The four under (66) was about what I deserved. If I hadn't shot four under I would have been disappointed but six under I would have had to get a few breaks for that. 

"It was a nice score and it puts me in position tomorrow. If things fall in place I certainly have a chance."

Harrington hasn't had a top 10 on the PGA Tour since last year's FedEx St Jude Classic, where he putted the lights out on Saturday. But while he was six shots off the pace on that occasion and ended up shooting a one over 71 in the final round to finish seven behind Harris English, this is easily his best chance to win an event since he was sixth in the weather curtailed Malaysian Open in March last year. 

"It is nice," he said of his sand save at the 18th. "It was important to do that if you do miss the greens. I didn't have myself in trouble very much today. I was well in control of the ball today which doesn't always happen.

"But the times you are missing it is important to get up and down and sometimes when you play nicely and hit a lot of greens and miss one or two, all of a sudden you are just not used to it, let's say and you drop a shot. It was important to avoid that today and I am happy about that."

If he wins, Harrington will move up from 209th in the world to around 84th — not enough to qualify for the US OPen just yet but close enough to the TOp 60 who will make it off the world rankings on May 26 and June 9.

If he's to win, he will have to continue to chip and putt as well as he has all week — he's 13th for putting and scrambling beautifully.

Out in front he has world No 138th Brendon Todd, former Open champion Oosthuizen who has been struggling with back trouble, journeyman James Hahn, last year's Reno Open winner Woodland and 203 Masters champion Weir.

Winless since 2007, 44-year old Weir is now 603rd in the world and has missed 10 of 14 cuts this season.

Tied with Harrington are the likes of the up and coming Canadian Graham DeLaet and the equally promising Marc Leishman. But with the top 17 on the leaderboard covered by five shots, it's clear than anything could happen.

Harrington will go out in the third last twoball with Weir and while some commentators have likened their presence on the leaderboad to a time warp scenario, class and experience will stand to them both if they can keep the ball under reasonable control from tee to green and scramble as immaculately as they have done so far this week.