Harrington puts down his marker

Irishman finds range with his putter to pile up the pressure on lacklustre Woods and set up title battle, writes James Corrigan at Hazeltine

So much for this major being over. Somebody forgot to tell Padraig Harrington. Or then again, they probably didn't. The Irishman just chose to ignore all the USPGA obituaries, re-insert those manic eyeballs of his and try for the charge of his life. Harrington picked himself up from the dead men and dared to challenge the immortal.

His 69 yesterday hauled him up to six-under and to within two shots of the world No 1, who was strangely subdued in his own 71. But it could have been so much better and today's fare could have been so much more mouth-watering. A par on the last would have set up a final-group showdown between Harrington and Woods, between the defending champion and the player who has just happened to have won the last two USPGAs in which he has played. What a proposition that would have been.

Alas, the Dubliner took a bogey and will have to do what nobody else has for the last 13 years at this championship – win from outside the last pairing. "Yeah, I would have liked to have played with Tiger as I could have kept an eye on what he was doing," said Harrington, who partnered Woods in last week's final round at Akron, as well as the first two rounds here. "But as I'm not, I will be able to concentrate on doing my own thing. I was pleased with the score I put together today. I probably needed to make inroads if I was to have any chance of overtaking Tiger. Shame about the 18th."

Instead the honour of taking on Woods head-to-head will fall to Y E Yang, following a week's best 67 to stand on the same mark as Harrington. The Korean will be trying to become the first Asian to win a maJor and his chance of claiming such history not necessarily be underestimated. Yang has beaten Woods before, in Shanghai a few years ago, and with a PGA Tour win in his first season as a card-holder should be nobody's idea of a rank outsider. The 37-year-old is, however, not the biggest hitter, not the biggest name and the overwhelming bulk of the focus will fall elsewhere. On Harrington predominently.

Could he really cause Woods a blank major year? Well, despite the evidence of yesterday's heroics, the stats are still ganging up against him and all the rest. Woods has never lost a major when leading, or sharing the lead, after 54 holes. Indeed, he has won all of his 14 majors from this position. But at least he looked fallible as he advantage was halved yesterday and that just might be half of the battle.

The challenge for Harrington and Co was a s obvious as it should have been ominous as he teed off. Not only was there a four-shot deficit to be overhauled in the third round – but the finest front – runner the game has ever known. Certainly, nothing i *Woods' major odyssey should have allowed his pursuers hope. Eight times he had been at the head of the scoreboard at the halfway point and eight times he had duly taken one step closer to Jack Nicklaus's mark of 18 majors. Furthermore this was the biggest advantage Woods had enjoyed after 36 holes of a major since leading by five at the 2005 Open at St Andrews.

When he struck his approach to three feet on the second it all seemed so familiar. But instead of press on, Woods went oddly flat and the pack began to close. Ernie Els was inspired in dragging himself to six-under before three closing bogeys derailed his charge. Henrik Stenson was also inspiration in golf spikes, the Swede's 68 taking him to four-under and into a tie for third. Yet it was Harrington who represented the cavalry most forcefully. He began quite scrappily but then on the back nine the putts started to drop. And when he birdied the 14th, he had levelled the lead. For the first time in 35 holes, Woods was not the sole occupant of the top rung of the leaderboard.

Typically Woods did not stay too quiet for too long. He was nowhere near his best but still found a way to make things happen. On the 14th he played an awful chip over the green before, audaciously, holing the chip back. It took him ahead again and when Harrington blundered on the 18th, his advantage began to look unbreachable again. It probably would have been if Woods had been able to can the six-footer on the last. But it dribbled wide and Harrington still had hope. Last night was busy convincing himself that Woods's famous record when leading did not make his task forlorn.

"I would go along the lines of it's got to break at some stage – might as well tell myself that," said Harrington. "In fairness to Tiger, that's never going to last forever. Maybe he'll be 60 years of age when it's broken, but it's not going to last forever." Maybe not. But whether it won't last until tonight seems a different proposition entirely.

Alas, the British challenge has faltered. Barring a miracle, there will be no first Wanamaker Trophy being checked through Heathorw tomorrow. Ross Fisher bogeyed the last for a 73 to fall back to two-under, and for Lee Westwood the day was also framed by frustration as his own 73 held him too far back on one-under. That mark as Rory McIlroy, who shot a 71. At just 20 years, the Ulsterman has the chance to gain his second top-10 of the major season. What an achievement that would be.

But perhaps the most remarkable performance here has been that of Corey Pavin. Despite being 49 and, more to the point, the shortest hitter in the whole field, the American Ryder Cup captain has chipped and putted his way around this eye-straining layout to stand at one-under. We can only thank the lord his opposing number was not watching Pavin's oh so gutsy 71 yesterday. Colin Montgomerie was flying back after missing the cut.

Tip of the week: No 14: belly wedge

As golf-course designers and committees try to make courses more challenging, a new trend is to have a thick, lush collar of semi-rough surrounding the green. I'm sure you've experienced a shot nestled against this cut, making a chip or putt tricky. Why not try the belly wedge? Take your pitching wedge and set up to the ball with a normal putting stance and grip. Make a putting stroke, letting the sole of the wedge brush over the top of the rough grass and purposely thin the ball. The wedge doesn't get snagged in the long grass and the ball runs like a putt to the hole. Be careful not to strike down and chip the ball, you must strike right in the middle of the ball.

Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Purley Downs GC, Surrey.

Leaderboard

(US unless stated)

208

Tiger Woods 67 70 71

210

Y E Yang (S Kor) 73 70 67

Padraig Harrington (Ire) 68 73 69

212

Henrik Stenson (Swe) 73 71 68

Lucas Glover 71 70 71

213

Ernie Els (SA) 75 68 70

Soren Kjeldsen (Den) 70 73 70

214

Alvaro Quiros (Sp) 69 76 69

John Rollins 73 73 68

Martin Kaymer (Ger) 73 70 71

Ross Fisher (GB) 73 68 73

Brendan Jones (Aus) 71 70 73

215

Stephen Ames (Can) 74 71 70

Graeme McIlroy (GB) 71 73 71

Corey Pavin 73 71 71

Tim Clark (SA) 76 68 71

Lee Westwood (GB) 70 72 73

216

Steve Flesch 74 73 69

Graeme McDowell (GB) 70 75 71

Francesco Molinari (It) 74 73 69

David Toms 69 75 72

Vijay Singh (Fiji) 69 72 75

217

Ben Crane 70 75 72

Zach Johnson 74 73 70

Michael Allen 74 71 72

218

Retief Goosen (SA) 77 71 70

Scott McCarron 75 72 71

Anthony Kim 73 74 71

Charl Schwartzel (SA) 76 70 72

Stewart Cink 73 73 72

Oliver Wilson (GB) 74 72 72

Dustin Johnson 72 73 73

Hiroyuki Fujita (Japan) 71 74 73

K J Choi (S Kor) 73 72 73

Ben Curits 73 72 73

Hunter Mahan 69 75 74

John Merrick 72 72 74

Ian Poulter (GB) 72 70 76

219

Boo Weekley 74 74 71

Kevin Na 73 75 71

Miguel Angel Jimenez (Sp) 75 73 71

Thongchai Jaidee (Thai) 70 76 73

Woody Austin 73 73 73

Kevin Sutherland 73 72 74

Robert Allenby (Aus) 69 75 75

220

Chad Campbell 74 73 73

Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Sp) 70 77 73

John Mallinger 73 71 76

221

Fred Couples 74 74 73

Jim Furyk 73 75 73

Luke Donald (GB) 71 77 73

Justin Leonard 73 75 73

Jeev Milkha Singh (India) 74 73 74

Jeff Overton 72 74 75

222

Soren Hansen (Den) 72 76 74

Richard Green (Aus) 75 73 74

Bob Tway 72 76 74

Rich Beem 71 76 75

Camilo Villegas (Col) 73 73 76

Tom Lehman 72 74 76

Angel Cabrera (Arg) 76 70 76

Kenny Perry 74 70 78

Rory Sabbatini (SA) 74 70 78

Geoff Ogilvy (Aus) 71 73 78

223

David Smail (NZ) 75 73 75

Charlie Wi (S Kor) 72 76 75

Alastair Forsyth (GB) 73 75 75

Nathan Green (Aus) 72 75 76

Thomas Levet (Fr) 72 75 76

224

Michael Sim (Aus) 73 75 76

Phil Mickelson 74 74 76

Ryo Ishikawa (Japan) 74 74 76

Chris Wood (GB) 74 73 77

Grant Sturgeon 73 71 80

225

Bob Estes 74 74 77

Greg Bisconti 75 72 78

J J Henry 72 73 80

226

Paul Goydos 70 78 78

229

Sean O'Hair 74 73 82

Missed the cut:

149 Anders Hansen (Den) 71 78; Mark Brooks 74 75; Sergio Garcia (Sp) 71 78; Davis Love III 76 73; Bubba Watson 74 75; Scott Hebert 72 77; Aaron Baddeley (Aus) 76 73; Mathew Goggin (Aus) 69 80; Justin Rose (GB) 73 76 Ryan Palmer 75 74; Marc Turnesa 73 76; Carl Pettersson (Swe) 72 77; Brandt Snedeker 75 74; Stuart Appleby (Aus) 74 75

150 Michael Bradley 70 80; Nick Watney 75 75; Brian Davis (GB) 76 74; Charley Hoffman 76 74; John Senden (Aus) 73 77; Matt Kuchar 77 73; Louis Oosthuizen (SA) 72 78; Steve Elkington (Aus) 75 75; Charles Howell III 77 73; Mark Wilson 77 73; Peter Hanson (Swe) 74 76; Andres Romero (Arg) 75 75; Bo Van Pelt 71 79; Ken Duke 73 77; Briny Baird 76 74

151 Steve Stricker 74 77; Tim Weinhart 76 75 Steve Webster (GB) 76 75; Craig Thomas 75 76; Steve Marino 76 75; Ryuji Imada (Japan) 76 75; Scott Verplank 77 74; D J Trahan 72 79

152 Rodney Pampling (Aus) 74 78; Keith Dicciani 72 80; Brett Quigley 78 74

153 Pat Perez 74 79; Michael Miles 72 81; Jason Dufner 79 74; Colin Montgomerie (Scot) 75 78; Shingo Katayama (Japan) 75 78

154 Anthony Wall (GB) 78 76; Paul Azinger 74 80; Shaun Micheel 76 78; Mark Sheftic 76 78; Darren Clarke (GB) 78 76

155 Jerry Kelly 77 78; Will MacKenzie 84 71; Mike Weir (Can) 74 81; Nick Dougherty (GB) 80 75

156 Todd Lancaster 75 81; Cameron Beckman 78 78; Chris Starkjohann 77 79

157 Mike Small 78 79; Prayad Marksaeng (Thai) 76 81

158 Sam Arnold 81 77; Kevin Streelman 76 82; Steve Schneiter 82 76

159 Michael Campbell (NZ) 80 79; Brian Gay 78 81; Brian Gaffney 79 80; Lee Rinker 78 81

160 Tim Petrovic 76 84; Johan Edfors (Swe) 77 83

161 Adam Scott (Aus) 82 79

162 Eric Lippert 78 84

164 Mitch Lowe 84 80; Ryan Benzel 81 83

168 Robert Gaus 81 87; Kevin Roman 87 81

Withdrew: J B Holmes 76, John Daly 78, Richard Sterne (SA) 73 72

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