Padraig Harrington in the Masters hunt after strong Saturday in Texas
It's all to play for at the Valero Texas Open
PADRAIG HARRINGTON reckons "a low one" will give him a chance to challenge for victory - and a last-gasp Masters invitation - at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio today.
The three-time Major winner (51) found himself eight shots adrift of Patrick Rodgers at halfway after completing the final two holes of a second-round 73 on Saturday.
But after opening his third round with 10 straight pars, the veteran birdied four of his next seven holes to put himself right in contention.
A homeward nine of 32 at TPC San Antonio saw him sign for a four-under 68 and tied sixth on seven-under-par.
He's five behind Rodgers, who shot 71 to lead by one stroke on 12-under-par from Canadian Corey Conners, the 2019 champion, and by three from Matt Kuchar.
Conners has already qualified for the Masters, but Rodgers needs to claim his first PGA Tour win to secure his Masters debut.
"Yeah, it was a nice score today, nice back nine, took my chances," said Harrington, who has secured starts in the PGA, the US Open and The Open but would love to play a 17th Masters.
"I'm not quite sure if there was some easy pins and some tough pins. So seems like the scoring isn't that good, so I'm quite happy with it.
"I certainly lost a few shots yesterday looking at that cut, probably lost two or three shots.
"I looked up at the leaderboard after 11 holes yesterday and saw I was in like 12th spot but only three shots off the cut and I froze for a good five holes.
"Yeah, so kind of regretting those now."
He knows he still has an outside chance of a win and a coveted Masters invitation, but he is also conscious he will have to post a low final round to put pressure on the leaders.
"It was a decent day anyway," Harrington said. "Maybe a low one tomorrow will get us in the hunt."
He added: "Look, I'm sure everybody's out there thinking they've left shots behind. We'll wait and see tomorrow. This course can -- it's an interesting course, it can be really difficult if it's going away from you and if things are going for you, there are a few opportunities.
"It's possible to lose some ground; it's possible to make some ground."
He had feared a long day on the course following the fog-delayed first day but had just two holes of his delayed second round to complete on Saturday morning.
"There's a few aches and pains, a few new aches and pains, too," he confessed. "I knew I'd make it through, I just -- I went to the physio early today and I'm going to go again now. I'm going to go and do my, yeah, bit of recovery.
"That's all that's needed. Only 20 holes, so it wasn't too bad."
At the LPGA Tour's DIO Implant LA Open, Leona Maguire shot a third successive, one-over 72 to share 65th heading into the final round at Palos Verdes in her last start before The Chevron Championship in Texas in two weeks.
China's Ruoning Yin shot 67 to lead by two shots om 14-under from South Korea's Hyo Joo Kim.
Meanwhile, Rose Zhang (19) overcame a terrible start and claimed the Augusta National Women's Amateur when she beat her American compatriot Jenny Bae (21) with a par on the second hole of a sudden-death play-off.
The Stanford sophomore and No. 1 amateur in the world followed her bogey-free 66 with a stunning seven-under 65 to take a five-shot lead over Andrea Lignell into the final round.
But she drove into a fairway bunker and double-bogeyed the first, reaching the eighth hole in four-over-par when the horns sounded just after 10:30 a.m.
Play was delayed for three hours and 20 minutes, and after continuing to struggle, Zhang weakened her right-hand grip and birdied the 13th before dumping a fairway wood in the lake at the 15th, where she had to make a six-footer for bogey.
She shot 76 and was caught by the University of Georgia's Bae, who posted one of just three sub-par rounds to force a play-off on nine-under.
But after they parred the first extra hole, the 18th, Bae pulled her second into the camellias at the 10th, bunkered her third through the green and eventually made five as Zhang two-putted down the hill for winning par.
"Being able to play competitively at Augusta National is certainly different from any other venue that I've played in," said Zhang, who has now won the 2020 US Women's Amateur, the 2021 US Girls' Junior and the 2022 NCAA Championship.
"To overcome everything, I'm just super grateful to be here."
She revealed how her Stanford teammates had joked, "Rose is dead inside", so cool and calm did she remain under pressure.
But she admitted Augusta brought all her emotion to the fore.
"I'm very much human," she said.