Friday, 19 March 2010
Padraig Harrington discovered just why the notorious 17th hole at St Andrews has been the graveyard of so many golfing ambitions when he took a double bogey six to finish the third round of the dunhill links championship in a tie for the lead with Eduardo Romero.

The Irishman would happily have traded his six for the par four recorded by his amateur playing partner, racehorse owner JP McManus, but in the end he had to settle for a four under par 68 and 16 under par total of 200.

A birdie at the last helped Harrington regain the pole position he had held overnight while Romero, winner of The Barclays Scottish Open on his last visit to Scotland, fired a five under par 67 at the Old Course to sit alongside Europe’s Ryder Cup hero.

Vijay Singh of Fiji holed a 40 yard sand wedge at the last at St Andrews for a 64, his best performance at the Home of Golf, to move into third place on 15 under par with Sandy Lyle and Ignacio Garrido sharing fourth on 13 under.

Harrington, who can still win the Volvo Order of Merit by capturing the dunhill links title, admitted: “It was a careless double bogey and obviously now there are a lot of guys going out tomorrow who feel they have a chance of winning. I also hit it into the bushes at the ninth which cost me two shots as well. But for those mistakes it would have been a two or three horse race at most.”

However Harrington was happy to have the pleasant distraction of his amateur partner to help him get over the annoyance. He explained; “I walked off the 17th with a smile on my face despite the double bogey because JP made a four nett three. That cheered me up. Also walking down the fairways there is lots to talk about other than golf and that’s a good distraction.

“When I was struggling at the 17th I still went over the read JP’s putt and it takes your mind off things. It’s a different week from normal. We don’t play many Pro-Ams in this format and it’s great once in a while. I’m enjoying my week.”

Hardly surprising, considering that Harrington and McManus are currently leading the team event with a 31 under par total. They are four strokes clear of Romero and his partner, Neil Crichton.

The powerful Argentinian fed off the thrill of playing the Old Course and said: “I missed only one drive out there today and that was the key. This is one of the best courses in Europe - it’s very similar to my home course in Argentina, no trees and plenty of wind.”

Singh, whose previous best round at St Andrews was a 66 in the dim and distant past, was excited by his round of 64 which propelled him through the field into third place while Lyle strung together a controlled 67 for 13 under par.

“I’m pleased with things so far” he said. “My ball control has been good and I haven’t put myself in too much danger. The last time I was in this position was the last round at Loch Lomond but I shot a 76 or something like that and went down the list sharpish. You’ve got to keep your concentration going or this course can quickly turn round and bite you.”

Garrido, a Ryder Cup player five years ago, also shot 67 at St Andrews for 13 under par while the best score at Carnoustie was recorded by Jyoti Randahawa of India whose 69 left him in six th position on 12 under.

While Harrington found difficulties at the 17th, the worst sufferer was Open Champion Ernie Els, who ran up a quadruple bogey eight on his way to a level par round of 72 at St Andrews.

Miguel Martin of Spain was disqualified from the professional contest for not completing the hole at the par three 16th at Carnoustie while Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin aced the same hole with a three iron from 245 yards.

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