PGA TourBrian Keogh

Harrington three off the lead as McIlroy survives cut

PGA TourBrian Keogh
Harrington three off the lead as McIlroy survives cut
Rory McIlroy speaks to reporters after his 73

Rory McIlroy speaks to reporters after his 73

Pádraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy might appear poles apart but they face remarkably similar goals as they build-up to The Open at Royal Birkdale next month.

The Dubliner, 45, added a 69 to his opening 66 in tricky conditions in the Travelers Championship at TPC Riverhighlands in Connecticut last night to lie just three shots behind leader Jordan Spieth on five-under par.

McIlroy struggled, losing his footing at the 18th and closing with his fifth bogey of the day for a three-over 73 that left him anxiously waiting to see if he'd make the cut on level par.

That he eventually made it on the mark is good news for the Co Down man, who is as under-golfed as Harrington after an injury interrupted year and trying to gauge what needs to be done to get his game back where he'd like it to be.

Getting the competitive juices flowing as important as chipping away the rust, and while McIlroy also has the added issue of a lack of confidence in his new putter, he too only needs to play more rounds to give himself a chance of peaking for The Open in less than a month's time.

"I am trying to get my head in the right place before the Open," Harrington told Sky Sports. 

"I am happy I am on the fringes of contention. Three shots is not much on this golf course. But I do need this sort of experience. 

"Everything is geared towards the Irish Open, the Scottish Open and the Open. And I need to be somewhat in the heel of the hunt and feeling it, thinking about it.  

"I know, with four weeks to go, I've got to get my head right. It's nothing to do with my swing or anything like that. I am where I need to be."

McIlroy is eight shots behind Spieth, but he admitted that he needs simply to play golf and get rounds under his belt rather than worry just yet about winning.

"Felt pretty good yesterday," McIlroy said. "Today with the way the conditions were, I think it was tricky in the wind, and in those conditions your weaknesses or parts of your game you need to work on are going to show up and sort of caught me up a few times today.

"Yeah, just try to see what happens here. Hopefully the cut stays at even par and I get another couple competitive rounds over the weekend."

"I feel like this golf course sets up well for me," said McIlroy, who agreed with Harrington's assessment of the conditions. "I think it was just the conditions. You know, it was windy, it was tricky. 

"Sometimes the wind got up, and then it laid down. It was hard to really commit to club selection or the shot you were going to play. So I was sort of caught in two minds a little bit out there at some points. Hit some loose shots because of it."

McIlroy was far from his best in most departments and while did hit a 393-yard drive at the fourth, he failed to hit the ball close and holed just two putts of more than six feet, according to PGA Tour tracker data.

"If I play the next two days like I played today, I definitely am [out of the tournment], yeah," he said. 

"I don't know. I'll see what happens tomorrow if I do play, but I won't be thinking about trying to win the tournament from there. I'll be thinking about trying to go and play a good, solid round of golf.

"But we have seen here in the past guys going out and shooting a low score and getting themselves back into the tournament. But if that's to happen, obviously, first I need to make the cut, and second I need to play a lot better than I did today."

Spieth played early and added a 69 to his opening 63 to lead by a shot from Troy Merritt (68) and Patrick Reed (66) on eight under.