Harrington hoping three's a charm at PGA Grand Slam of Golf

Padraig Harrington
Pritchard/PGA of America
Padraig Harrington lost in a playoff in two previous PGA Grand Slam of Golf appearances.
By
Josh Bell
PGA.com Contributor

Series: PGA

SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda -- Padraig Harrington will have to overturn his history and the tournament's if he is to win the PGA Grand Slam of Golf for the first time Wednesday.

The Irishman has finished runner-up twice, in 2007 and 2008, in an event that only one European, Ian Woosnam in 1991, has won since its inception in 1979.

2012 PGA Grand Slam of Golf

The 2012 PGA Grand Slam of Golf -- featuring four major champions -- takes place Oct. 23-24 at Port Royal Golf Course in Southampton, Bermuda. Keep track of all the action with PGA.com's special coverage.

Harrington has a good chance though, with an opening 5-under 66 Tuesday giving him a two-shot lead halfway through the 36-hole sprint.

Watson is second two shots further back after an eventful 3-under 68, with Webb Simpson a shot further back and Bradley trailing following his 1-over 72.

If Watson, Simpson and Bradley were wondering how they might make it third-time unlucky for the Irishman he gave them a clue after the opening round -- stop talking to him.

The quartet joked their way around Port Royal Golf Course, and Harrington said he always played better in a chatty group.

"You know what, every day I play, I always try to make an effort to enjoy the day, talk to my playing partners," he said. "Today it was better than ever. We were all very relaxed out there.

"Everybody was up for a chat. Some days you can play with a guy who maybe doesn't want to talk back, so you can keep talking. Today, everybody was enjoying it, and you know, selfishly, I play better when the whole group enjoys it. If the guys have any sense, they shouldn't talk to me tomorrow."

Still, Harrington also produced the most error-free round of the bunch, with bogeys at 3 and 16 the only blotches on his scorecard.

As with the rest, Harrington struggled to read the greens, unsurprising since it is only the second time he's played the course, however, his approach shots rarely left him needing to make putts from distance.

"I had a 15-footer at the third and kind of lost my focus a bit on the line and drove it through the line and then hit a bad putt coming back, a terrible bogey," he said.

"[I] wasn't feeling great and then on No. 6 I hit it stone dead on my second shot. You need to be making the birdies at that stage.

"And then followed it up with a 7-iron to 15 feet for eagle at the next. Never bad to make a birdie. I wasn't disappointed not hitting the eagle putt.

"Hit a lob-wedge stone dead at 10. I wasn't hitting putts at this stage, so it was good to hit one where I couldn't miss.

"Then I holed my two putts on 14 and 15. They were the bonus putts of the round. I holed about, two putts maybe, 15 to 18 feet sort of length."

Harrington was 2-under at the turn, level with Watson, but pulled clear when Watson bogeyed 10, and Harrington tapped in for birdie following another impressive approach.

A duffed chip shot at 16 aside and Harrington might have been looking at equalling the course record 65 set by Lucas Glover in 2009.

Still, Harrington is in a strong position and is hoping the benign conditions that accompanied the golfers Tuesday extend into the final round.

"You know, you could play the golf course more or less with the yardage short today because there wasn't a huge amount of wind there," said Harrington. "The ball, the conditions, the golf course, responded exactly how you would expect. So there wasn't a lot of local knowledge today but if we got a change of wind direction tomorrow, it's not like it's going to firm up overnight or anything.

"But if we got a change of wind direction, that would be very awkward for the likes of myself, Bubba and Webb. I think Keegan said he played in a directly opposite wind from last year, so I hope it doesn't happen tomorrow."

The rest aren't giving up the fight, and even defending champion Keegan Bradley gives himself a chance. The 2011 PGA Champion is six shots back, but has been in that position before and shot a six-under 30 on the front nine on his way to victory at Port Royal only 12 months ago.

"A little disappointing to come out and shoot that number, but good thing is we've got another day tomorrow," said Bradley.

Bradley didn't actually play that badly, but a run of three holes on the front nine, where he got unlucky in a couple of bunkers and dropped to 4-over, forced him to spend the remainder of the round chasing the rest of the group.

"You know, Pádraig is playing very well," said Bradley. "I've been six shots back before with less time, so I look forward to going out tomorrow and just making a million birdies and having a good time.

"Pádraig played great today. If he plays the way he did, I have no chance, but I look forward to a nice challenge tomorrow."

Of the four Watson is closest to Harrington, and but for a couple of three putts could well have had the clubhouse lead overnight. As you might expect from a flamboyant character he left his mark on the ground with a couple of booming drives, and even produced the shot of the day with a recovery shot from deep rough on 15 set up a 6-ft putt for birdie.

Simpson was solid for most of the round and didn't miss a green until his tee-shot settled on the fringe at the par-3 8th. The US Open champion was happy with his round, but thinks he needs fast start tomorrow.

"I never really got anything going, but you know, solid, I would say, and I need to get off to probably a better start tomorrow to have a chance," he said.