Harrington gamble has Clarke chasing long odds

Padraig Harrington, until last Friday uncertain whether to play in the Turespaña Masters in Madrid, takes a one-stroke lead into the third round. A 64 yesterday for a halfway total of 131, 11 under par, helped to remove any doubt in the 29-year-old Dubliner's mind about whether he made the right decision to return to the Club de Campo course where he won his first European tour title at the 1996 Spanish Open.

Padraig Harrington, until last Friday uncertain whether to play in the Turespaña Masters in Madrid, takes a one-stroke lead into the third round. A 64 yesterday for a halfway total of 131, 11 under par, helped to remove any doubt in the 29-year-old Dubliner's mind about whether he made the right decision to return to the Club de Campo course where he won his first European tour title at the 1996 Spanish Open.

"I've played the last four weeks and I should not really play five in a row," said Harrington, who all summer has been receiving regular treatment from a chiropractor for neck and shoulder trouble. "I certainly intended not to, but because it was the venue I won on I decided to make an exception. So far it's been a good idea."

His playing partner, Darren Clarke, needing to win tomorrow to take back top spot from Lee Westwood on the European Order of Merit, was left five adrift as Harrington followed a back nine 30 with a 15-foot eagle putt on the long fourth. He also shot a second-round 64 four years ago before going on to win by four strokes in what was only the 10th tour event of his career.

But while happy to recall that, Harrington does not want reminding that the last time he had a 64 was in the third round of the Benson and Hedges International at The Belfry in May. That gave him a five-shot lead and he was poised for the £166,660 first prize until it was discovered he had absent-mindedly failed to sign his first-round scorecard. He was disqualified and has not won since.

Hard on his heels this weekend is his Ryder Cup partner Miguel Angel Jimenez, chasing that rare tour feat of victory in the same event three years running. When Colin Montgomerie claimed a hat-trick of Volvo PGA wins in May it was the first time it had been achieved since Nick Faldo lifted the 1991, 1992 and 1993 Irish Opens. Jimenez had no fewer than eight birdies, but also three bogeys for his second successive 66, after witnessing something he had never seen before.

The Spaniard was amazed when his playing partner Ian Woosnam produced first a long putter, then a short one as well from the bag and used both. It did Woosnam, no good. After an opening 76 he dropped further back to seven over before quitting after nine holes with a bad back. "It's a pity, because he's still hitting the ball so well," said Jimenez, who is a shot ahead of third-placed Roger Wessels of South Africa.

In Gainsville, Virginia, Nick Price and Greg Norman took inspiration from Ernie Els to spark an International team revival from 5-0 overnight to 6-4 in the morning four-ball matches in the Presidents Cup, the United States having won all of Thursday's five foursomes. "The spirit was always there," Norman said. "We just had to put together the effort on the golf course."

Zimbabwe's Price and the Australian Norman beat David Duval and Jim Furyk 6 and 5, taking their cue from the words of the world No 2. "Ernie Els gave us all a little speech on the bus," Norman said. "He's too big. You have got to listen to him." The Unites States captain, Ken Venturi, said: "They've played well, but you always seem to go up a notch in desperation."

Madrid Open: Leading second-round scores (GB and Irl unless stated): 131 P Harrington 67 64. 132 M A Jimenez (Sp) 66 66. 133 R Wessels (SA) 68 65. 135 S Luna (Sp) 65 70; P-U Johansson (Swe) 72 63. 136 D Clarke 66 70; A Wall 67 69, J Moseley (Aus) 70 66; P Fulke (Swe) 68 68. 137 G Emerson 67 70; D Gilford 67 70. 138 A Cabrera (Arg) 72 66; P Nyman (Swe) 70 68. 139 P Lonard (Aus) 67 72; P Sjoland (Swe) 71 68; D Smyth 70 69; S Tinning (Den) 69 70; S Webster 71 68. 140 G Owen 70 70; M Gronberg (Swe) 69 71; S Torrance 69 71; R Chapman 70 70; A Hansen (Den) 69 71; M Lafeber (Neth) 70 70.

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