Saturday 10 December 2016

On-song Harrington slams 'softening up' of Scottish Open course

William S Callahan

Published 09/07/2016 | 02:30

Padraig Harrington of Ireland reacts on the 9th green during the second round of the AAM Scottish Open. Photo: Getty Images
Padraig Harrington of Ireland reacts on the 9th green during the second round of the AAM Scottish Open. Photo: Getty Images

Professional golfers normally love a course where birdies and eagles are up for grabs, but Padraig Harrington felt Castle Stuart, host venue for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open was too easy yesterday.

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Harrington was reacting to the set-up of the links near Inverness after strong winds affected the scoring on day one.

Tournament officials moved tees forward and kept the speed of the greens relatively slow in response to the slow pace of play and the problems encountered by players on wind-exposed putting surfaces on Thursday.

Harrington told Sky Sports: "It was a tough day (Thursday) but I felt it was very playable.

"They hadn't hidden the pin positions, the fairways are wide enough for that sort of wind, the greens are wide enough at the front for that sort of wind.

"It was just a linksy day. It was similar to what I'd get at home if I played during the winter.

"I was disappointed that they went and softened the golf course up today. I think they made it a little too easy."

Sweden's Alex Noren took advantage of the course to lead overnight on eight-under par after carding 66.

Read More: Rory honing links skills in bid to atone for 2015 woe

Noren played flawless golf, notching up six birdies and keeping a bogey off the card.

The Swede started on the 10th hole, and had only one birdie to his credit - a four on the par-five 12th in his first nine.

He then caught fire on the front nine, to get home in 31 shots, including a hat-trick of birdies on his 15th, 16th and 17th holes.

New Zealand's Danny Lee, who also shot 66, and Eddie Pepperell of England (67) were one adrift on seven-under.

Lee has pledged a donation of $500 for each birdie, and $1,000 for every eagle he scores in the tournament to aid flood relief work in West Virginia.

The floods were so bad that the PGA Tour cancelled this week's scheduled Greenbriar Classic, which Lee won last year. So far the Kiwi has 11 birdies and hopes to score an eagle or two before the tournament is over.

Behind second-placed Lee and Pepperell came a group of four on six-under, including South Africa's Branden Grace, with Harrington (right) and Graeme McDowell sitting three off the lead on five-under par.

The two Irish Major winners handled the first 36 holes in fine style with similar scores - 69 yesterday and 70 on day one for each of them.

Harrington's five birdies in round two included a tap-in on the 330-yard par-four 16th, his seventh hole.

Read More: Graeme McDowell enjoys conditions at Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open

He drove the green and his 10ft eagle attempt finished a couple of inches wide of the cup.

McDowell's game looked in good shape, and he made some solid par saves along with four birdies and just one bogey.

The best save came on the par-three 17th. McDowell missed the green with his tee shot, but managed to deftly chip the ball out of rough on a down slope, and almost holed out.

Michael Hoey's 72 for two-over par 146 was enough to make the cut, which fell at three over.

Shane Lowry, Paul Dunne and Paul McGinley were outside the mark, which means Lowry and Dunne will have more time to prepare for next week's Open Champion-ship at Troon.

Dunne's 70 represented an eight shot improvement on his first-round 78, but at four over, it was too little, too late to see him through to the weekend.

Read More: 'People are going to say I'm full of s***' - Graeme McDowell changes his tune at Castle Stuart

Lowry bowed out on six over after following his first-round 77 with a 73, while McGinley, who has played very few tournaments, was on nine-over.

On the Challenge Tour, Northern Ireland's Cormac Sharvin shot 64 in the D+D Real Slovakia Challenge in Senica, Slovakia to lie just two shots off the lead held by Norway's Espen Kofstad.

Kofstad set the pace at 12 under par and led by a shot from Scott Henry of Scotland. Sharvin was in a group of four one shot further back.

Ruaidhri McGee registered a 69 to remain in contention on eight under. Kevin Phelan, the only other Irish player to make the cut, carded 68 for six under.

Meanwhile, Waterford's Seamus Power, who became the first Irishman to win on the Web.Com Tour when he triumphed in the United Leasing & Finance Championship last May, was on three under par after 36 holes of the Lecom Health Challenge in Finldley Park, New York.

Power, who on Monday is expected to be confirmed along with Padraig Harrington as an Irish Olympian, shot 68 yesterday to add to his opening 73.

The clubhouse leader was Rhein Gibson (USA) on 12 under.

Leona Maguire's US Women's Open bid was in jeopardy after she ended her second round on five over (74, 75).

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