Power playing catch up; Harrington inspired by Pieters
Seamus Power

Seamus Power

Seamus Power matched Tiger Woods but finds himself playing catch up in his bid for FedEx Cup survival in The Northern Trust in New Jersey.

The West Waterford star needs to finish solo 18th at worst to jump from 125th into the top 100 in the FedEx Cup standings who will advance to next week's Dell Technologies Championship in Boston.

But after racing to two-under after five holes, he made three bogeys and one birdie in his next 13 to card a level par 71 that left him tied with 14-time major winner Woods.

They're just inside the cut line, tied for 60th and five strokes behind Sean O’Hair, Jamie Lovemark, Kevin Tway and Vaughn Taylor who shot five-under 66s to lead by one from a 13-strong chasing pack at Ridgewood Country Club

Woods spent as much time after his round talking about the $9 million, winner-takes-all, pay-per-view clash with Phil Mickelson as he did about his slow start.

“It’s 18 holes, so anybody can win an 18-hole boat race," Woods said of the showdown scheduled for Shadow Ridge in Las Vegas on November 23 or 24. 

“We’re going to have fun doing something that’s never been done before and have on Pay-Per-View and doing something, trying to showcase golf and showcase golf in a different way."

As for asking fans to pay to see the match, which is likely to be far more economic that world title boxing bouts, he said: "I think they can afford it and I think it will be done differently. How many times have we all purchased fights, whether it's MMA or it's boxing? We all purchase those fights?'

"As I said, it will be different. It's fun to do something different in our sport and something that's never been done before."

As for his round, which featured two birdies and two bogeys, he said it was “just one of those days” when he was frequently between clubs.

Power picked up two early shots, two-putting the 283-yard 12th (his fourth) after driving the green before hitting a 109-yard wedge stone dead at the 13th.

But he short-sided himself to bogey the 14th, then three-putted the second from 18 feet and then followed a two-putt birdie four at the third with another bogey at the seventh to end the day where he started.

World No 1 Dustin Johnson, who is in danger of being overtaken by US Open and PGA champion Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose this week, recovered from a triple bogey eight at his ninth hole to fire a 67 that left him just a shot off the pace.

He was tied for fourth in a 13-strong group on four under with the likes of Koepka and Europeans Rafa Cabrera Bello and Paul Casey, both of whom need to top 16 finishes to knock Thorbjorn Olesen out of the top eight Ryder Cup places ahead of next week’s final qualifying event in Denmark. 

On the European Tour, Thomas Pieters inspired Ryder Cup vice-captain Pádraig Harrington (46) to his best round of the season and sent a clear message to European skipper Thomas Bjorn when he opened with an eight-under 64 to share the lead in the D+D Real Czech Masters.

The Belgian is tied at the top with two-time Major winner John Daly (52), England’s Callum Tarren and Malaysia’s Gavin Green at Albatross Golf Resort in Prague.

It was a statement of intent from Pieters (26) who was second in his title defence in Prague two years ago and then won the following week's Made in Denmark to clinch a Ryder Cup wildcard.

He may need a similar fortnight to make this year's team but he insists he's going for back to back victories. 

“I’d rather go one better here and then do the same next week but I’m going to worry about tomorrow first and then Saturday, a day at a time,” Pieters said.

Harrington and last week’s Nordea Masters winner Paul Waring shot bogey-free 66s in Pieters company with the three-ball bogey-free in perfect conditions.

As Gavin Moynihan shot 70 and Paul McBride a 72 to leave them either side of the cut line, Harrington’s six-under 66 was his best this year and he admitted he was inspired by his playing partners.

“It was certainly an easy round,” Harringtons said. "It could have been a little lower but it was an easy six under.  It's certainly one of my best rounds of the year. 

"It always helps when you've got players in good form. You see putts going in. You see birdies being made. A rising tide lifts all ships, put it like that."

England's Eddie Pepperell is tied for 10th with the likes of Harrington after his 66 but he insisted he's not focussing on a win that could put him inside the eight automatic qualifiers for Bjorn's team. 

“Apparently I could be close to The Ryder Cup team, but it’s not something I’m focussed on," Pepperell said. 

"If I hit a bad six iron then I’m so angry with that that the Ryder Cup is well out of the mind, but that’s a good thing that I’m like that right now and I intend it to stay that way. I don’t feel any extra pressure.”

Meanwhile, Michael Hoey is a massive 21 strokes behind Finland's Kim Koivu in the Challenge Tour's Rolex Trophy in Switzerland.

He added a 73 to his opening 75 at Golf Club de Geneve to sit alone in 39th in the 40-man field on four-over par.

Koivu followed his bogey-free, 10-under course record 62 with a seven-under 65 to lead by five strokes on 17-under par from Germany's Marcel Schneider in his bid for his third win of the season and automatic promotion to the European Tour.

"I hit a lot of good wedges, getting them close all the time," said Koivu, who took his birdie tally for the first two rounds to 19. "I made two bogeys, but other than that I played very, very well."