Padraig Harrington is a man who appreciates there is a fundamental difference between playing well and scoring well. The Irishman may not have felt comfortable on the greens here, but he was not about to complain when the ball disappeared into the hole. This happened frequently enough for Harrington to score a 69 in the second round of the Benson and Hedges International to lead at four under par.
Given that Harrington came from the wrong side of the draw, this was no mean achievement. A later starter on Thursday, he got the worst of the wind and though conditioned eased yesterday, they eased even more after he had finished. There was even a sighting of the sun, as if to mock the efforts of Colin Montgomerie at one over, Darren Clarke at six over, Lee Westwood at seven over and the Open champion Paul Lawrie at eight over. The latter two were not expecting to be playing again today.
Phil Price, the first-round leader from the other side of the draw, was sharing the top of the leaderboard until he bogeyed the last for a 72. Jean Van de Velde fell back with a 75. Adam Scott, the 19-year-old Australian amateur who is used to the wind from growing up in Queensland and attending college in Las Vegas, was also under par. Harrington birdied four of his last seven holes, a run which included rolling in a 30-footer. "I didn't putt very well but a few went in so I'm not complaining," he said.
"My 71 on Thursday was better than this 69, due to the conditions," Harrington added. The 28-year-old Dubliner, who made his debut in the Ryder Cup at Brookline last September, won the Brazil 500 Year Open in SÃ£o Paulo in April after adding to a long list of runner-up finishes with two more earlier in the season. The week before his win, he lost a play-off to Roger Chapman and said that he had not got carried away over the victory since then. "My seven seconds would have been a disaster, I'd have given up the game."
"He is clearly a lot more confident in his own ability," Montgomerie said of Harrington. "The Ryder Cup helped him a lot. He enjoyed it, one of the few that did."
A victory over Mark O'Meara in the singles at Brookline was the highlight, although the Irishman said he only allowed himself a glow of satisfaction five minutes before registering the team defeat. "I don't think any person in their right mind could actually enjoy the Ryder Cup when you are playing in it," he said. "The enjoyment comes out later, although for an hour after the end it was the most unsatisfying moment in golf."
Playing next year's Ryder Cup venue for the first time, Harrington was too busy dealing with the wind to be thinking ahead. "The key in golf is not to think ahead, even for 18 holes let alone for a year and a half," he said. But he admitted: "You can't believe how happy you are when a Ryder Cup is over that there is not one the following year. But I am already looking ahead now to next year in terms of my schedule."
Given Seve Ballesteros's Ryder Cup memories from The Belfry, the Spaniard made a sad sight as he finished dead last of the non-qualifiers on 25 over par. He added an 82 to his earlier 87 and the five-times major champion has never scored worse for 36 holes. The 43-year-old is as far away from recapturing the magic as ever, despite his triumph over Montgomerie at Sunningdale as he led Europe to victory over Britain and Ireland, an achievement that earned Ballesteros the golfer of the month award for April.
"It's a great shame," said Ian Woosnam, one of his playing partners. "His rhythm looks all right in practice but on the course even when it goes straight, it doesn't go anywhere." The Spaniard himself merely shrugged his shoulders.
The news got worse. Ballesteros was the first player to drive the green at the short par-four 10th at The Belfry but there is no longer a plaque commemorating the feat on the tee. So often has it been stolen over the years, it has been removed permanently.
Early second-round scores (GB and Irl unless stated):
140 P Harrington 71 69 141 P Price 69 72 143 JM Olazabal (Sp) 75 68 144 C Rocca (It) 74 70, A Cabrera (Arg) 72 72, P McGinley 73 71 145 D Hospital (Sp) 76 69, G Owen 76 69, C Montgomerie 76 69, J Van de Velde (Fr) 70 75 146 R Karlsson (Swe) 76 70, J Senden (Aus) 73 73, P Quirici (Swit) 73 73, A Coltart 75 71, B Langer (Ger) 76 70 147 D Park 75 72, I Poulter 73 74, R Green (Aus) 78 69, S Gallacher 76 71. Other selected 149 S Torrance 77 72 150 I Woosnam 77 73, D Clarke 78 72 151 L Westwood 77 74 169 S Ballesteros (Sp) 87 82