Padraig Harrington puts links experience to good use at Scottish Open

Ireland's Padraig Harrington during the second round

With three major championships in the bag, a 45th birthday to come next month and a subsequent date at Hazeltine as a Ryder Cup assistant captain, Padraig Harrington would be forgiven a pipe and slippers approach to life.

The unwillingness of the Irishman to slide towards playing retirement was instead clear last year, when he claimed a sensational victory at the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic.

At Castle Stuart, Harrington’s competitive instinct has been apparent once again. The adding of a 69 to Thursday’s 70 has left the Dubliner firmly in the hunt for the Scottish Open title and, once more, highlighted the value of experience in links golf. After his second round, Harrington made no secret of the fact he is no longer a young buck.

“I struggle on a Monday and Tuesday to be motivated,” Harrington conceded. “I still enjoy my pro-ams and certainly I like playing tournaments. I’m fascinated by what’s happening mentally in my own game and physically. That keeps me interested but I’m not the same person I was 10 years ago.

“As much as I like practising, when I’m at home I’ve got a lot more injuries to take care of, a lot more niggles, and certainly Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday is a long part of the week for me. I’m not quite as excited as I was when I was a young kid.”

Harrington laughed when it was put to him that gusty, tricky conditions such as the ones encountered on the outskirts of Inverness suit him perfectly. “It’s not that it’s easier for me,” he said. “It’s not that I like it. I love playing in 90 degrees of sunshine and dead calm.”

The serious point relating to this style of the game was to follow. “If you’re brought up playing links golf, you have it in you,” said the two-times Open champion. “For a lot of the players, we’re used to playing in sunny weather, no wind, and you fly it in high.

“Even though they played a few times, the links doesn’t come naturally to them. Even though they are trying to play the right shots and they might be well capable of playing the right shots, they are never comfortable with their choices. Whereas somebody like myself, who has played links all my life, I’m making the same decisions but I’m trusting them a little more.”

More endearing than Harrington’s prominence was that of Danny Lee, who is seven under par at the halfway point. Lee has promised to donate money for every birdie and eagle he makes to flood victims in West Virginia, an area which is close to his professional heart after his maiden PGA Tour success.

“I love to play great every week but making birdies and eagles are very important to me this week,” Lee said. “It’s very unfortunate that happened at West Virginia. I won the Greenbrier Classic last year there and was so looking forward to go back and interact with a lot of fans. People were just so nice to me last year.

“It’s really unfortunate what happened there. I know it’s not that much to help everybody but I’m trying to make as much birdies as possible.

“It was a huge breakthrough for me to capture my first PGA Tour victory last year and ever since I’ve been playing some great golf. That is a very, very special place for me.”

Phil Mickelson, who won here in 2013, eased inside the cut line with a 69 to add to his 76 from day one. “I enjoyed both rounds,” Mickelson said. “I enjoyed the challenge of both rounds but today was a much better round score-wise. Again I got off to a poor start and that put me really in a tough spot. It didn’t look good [enough] to even make the cut but I was able to turn it around.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ewan Murray at Castle Stuart, for The Guardian on Friday 8th July 2016 17.27 Europe/London

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