Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, who has not won a sanctioned event since the 2008 PGA Championship, fired a six-under 65 on Friday to seize a one-shot lead at the Transitions Championship.
Harrington moved to eight-under 134 after two rounds of the US$5.4 million PGA event at the Innisbrook golf club.
He used a pair of late birdies to fire his lowest score of the year to go with the 69 he shot on Thursday.
South Africa’s Retief Goosen and Sweden’s Carl Pettersson are part of a group of four golfers tied for second at seven-under 135.
Defending champion Goosen and Pettersson, also a former winner, both shot 68. Jim Furyk of the US had a chance to tie Harrington, but missed a six-foot par putt on 18 to finish with a 68. Bubba Watson (65) is also one shot adrift of Harrington.
On Wednesday, Harrington celebrated St Patrick’s Day with Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen at the White House. He and Cowen attended a gala event hosted by US President Barack Obama.
“If I thought going to the White House was going to detrimentally affect my performance, one or the other would have to be given up, either the tournament or the White House,” he said. “I felt that it certainly may put a little bit more risk into the performance, but I didn’t think it would detrimentally affect it and it hasn’t, obviously.”
Steve Stricker of the US played the last eight holes in even par and finished with a 66. He is two shots behind Harrington.
Stricker, who is the highest-ranked player in the field at world No. 2, had a chance to pull even with Harrington down the stretch, but made bogey on 16.
He hit a driver on the hole, but overshot the green and landed his ball next to a tree.
■TROPHEE HASSAN II
Welsh golfer Rhys Davies opened up a two-shot lead at the halfway point of the Trophee Hassan II on Friday after carding the lowest round of his European Tour career.
The 24-year-old, who was third at the Malaysian Open two weeks ago, added an eight-under 64 to his opening 68, while France’s Thomas Levet, Ignacio Garrido of Spain and South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen are two off the pace.
First round leader Nick Dougherty, who like Davies switched from the Red course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam to the shorter and easier Blue, was three shots behind the Welshman and dropped to joint fifth place on 10-under.
Oosthuizen hit a 64 to add to his opening 70.
“I hit some wayward iron shots, but otherwise it was pretty good,” the South African said.