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Pádraig Harrington leads Scottish Open as McIlroy's woes continue

Harrington retained the Claret Jug at Birkdale in 2008, and he’s in ominous form ahead of next week’s Open at the same venue.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

IRELAND’S PADRAIG HARRINGTON put aside a season marred by injury to muscle his way into a three-shot clubhouse lead with a round of 68 on day two of the Scottish Open at Dundonald Links on Friday.

The 45-year-old will return to Royal Birkdale next week for the British Open, having won his second major title the last time the Southport course hosted the championship in 2008.

Rory McIlroy’s tournament is over, however, after the world number four missed the cut for the second week in succession, finishing one-over-par. Graeme McDowell survived with a four under par 68 and moves to one-under for the tournament, while Paul Dunne is tied for 20th on three under.

Harrington did not drop a shot in managing four birdies, moving to nine under par and clear of American Matt Kuchar.

The three-time major winner’s effort is his lowest opening 36-hole tally since last October when he was 13 under par en route to a 15th Tour win at the Portugal Masters.

Despite undergoing an operation earlier this year on a neck injury he incurred during the Rio Olympics last October and also the scare of a freak elbow injury last month, Harrington says he is not a bit surprised to find himself in contention.

“No, I am not surprised at all to be in this position after what has happened in my season this year,” he said.

“Not even close to being surprised as I know this will happen pretty regularly though I cannot do it on demand so I cannot tell you if it will happen next week or the week after but it will happen.

“It was very much like my win last year in Portugal and then winning the Honda Classic earlier the year before, I will throw in these efforts out-of-the-blue.

“So, I will have tournaments like this where I throw in a few good rounds and get myself into the lead, and who knows what will happen these next two days, but it is not a surprise to me.

“It is just part of the sequence of the ups and downs, and I am just waiting patiently for the ups.”

And it is not lost on Harrington that next week he will return to the scene of his second British Open triumph.

“Who knows what will happen now over the weekend as I may have blown it all come Sunday night as that it is the nature of the game and maybe I am hitting good form a week too early,” he said.

“But it would be a nice buzz going to Royal Birkdale next week as it would be great to win another major, and if I did win next week I would sit here and tell you all the reasons why it will make a difference to me.”

Kuchar had eagled his final hole on day one, and the world number 19 went out on day two to birdie his opening two holes in a round of 70 and be second on six under.

“Overnight momentum can keep going,” said Kuchar.

“Certainly, it was a great way to finish last night. It’s a rare thing to finish with an eagle. It’s a highlight to finish with a birdie, and if you get an eagle, it’s great. Come out, got off to a great start.

“So, it was a great way to get my round going.”

Overnight leader Mikko Ilonen struggled in shooting a two-over 74 and drop back to five under and tied with England’s David Horsey, who capped his round with a hole-in-one at the par-three 11th.

It was Horsey’s fourth hole-in-one on Tour, but unfortunately for the 32-year-old the offer of a new car was at the 15th hole.

- © AFP 2017

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