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Padraig Fires 66 to Go Up by Two in PGA Grand Slam of Golf


A last-minute replacement for Ernie Els, Ireland's Padraig Harrington showed he belonged in the opening round of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. The 41-year-old carded a 5-under 66 to take a two-stroke lead halfway through the 36-hole event at Port Royal Golf Course in Bermuda.

The three-time major winner carded seven birdies and two bogeys Tuesday. Masters' winner Bubba Watson is second after a 68, while Webb Simpson, the U.S. Open champion, had a 69 and fellow American Keegan Bradley - the 2011 PGA champion who replaced Rory McIlroy - shot a 72.

Harrington, who took the place of Els after the "Big Easy" withdrew on Saturday due to an ankle injury, has come close to winning the exclusive four-man event twice before, but lost both times in a playoff.

He was pleased with his play and especially enjoyed the camaraderie of the other three players. "Every day I play, I always try to make an effort to enjoy the day, talk to my playing partners. Today it was better than ever. We were all very relaxed out there. Everybody was up for a chat . . . everybody was enjoying it, and you know, selfishly, I play better when the whole group enjoys it. If the guys have any sense, they shouldn't talk to me tomorrow." (See below for his full post-round interview.)

Watson is playing in his first Grand Slam following his first major title at Augusta National this spring. He too enjoyed the outing. "It was fun. Anytime you can come to this event, it's fun," said the long-hitting lefty from Bagdad, Fla.

Watson is playing in his first Grand Slam following his big victory at Augusta National this spring. He too enjoyed the outing. "It was fun. Anytime you can come to this event, it's fun," said the long-hitting lefty from Bagdad, Fla.

"Some of the caddies were looking for hole locations for this event; but it's like, this is fun right now, why are you working so hard," added Watson. "I had a couple tough shots out there, a few three-putts, not tracking very well on the greens; not comfortable on greens but other than, that 3 under, can't get too mad at that. The weather was perfect, the fans were great. So, yeah, it was good."

Simpson would like to come up with another victory to end his fine season. "We had a game plan," said the North Carolinian. "A lot holes you're hitting wedge into and you can attack, but the wind blew harder than we thought and it's hard to make putts when the wind is blowing that hard. Pádraig made a few but I hit quite a few lips today. I was 3 under, it was nice to finish off with a par to be only two back but three back isn't that far and hopefully we can play good tomorrow and hopefully make a few more birdies."

Ever the competitor, Bradley, who offset five birdies with four bogeys and a double on the par-4 sixth, hopes to stage a comeback in Wednesday's final round. "You know, Pádraig is playing very well," said the Vermont native. "I've been six shots back before with less time, so I look forward to going out tomorrow and just making a million birdies and having a good time.

"It's been a really enjoyable group," added Bradley. "Everybody is so nice and friendly and Pádraig played great today. If he plays the way he did, I have no chance, but I look forward to a nice challenge tomorrow."

For complete scoring details, visit http://www.pga.com/grandslam.

After signing his card, Harrington sat down with reporters for the following Q&A.

MODERATOR: Pádraig Harrington your leader in the clubhouse, 43 412 with a 66 minus five. You look like you were having an awful lot of fun out there today.

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: You know, what every day I play, I always try to make an effort to enjoy the day, talk to my playing partners. Today it was better than ever. We were all very relaxed out there. Everybody was up for a chat. Some days you can play with a guy who maybe doesn't want to talk back, so you can keep talking. Today, everybody was enjoying it, and you know, selfishly, I play better when the whole group enjoys it. If the guys have any sense, they shouldn't talk to me tomorrow. (Laughter).

MODERATOR: As leader in the clubhouse, right in the mix. Take us through your card starting with No.2.

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I hit a nice drive, I hit a second shot and hit a pitch to 15 feet and holed a good putt. It was nice to get off to a good start. I had a 15 footer at the third and kind of lost my focus a bit on the line and drove it through the line and then hit a bad putt coming back, a terrible bogey. Wasn't feeling great and then on No. 6 hit is stone dead on my second shot. You need to be making the birdies at that stage. And then followed it up with a 7 iron to 15 feet for eagle at the next. Never bad to make a birdie. I wasn't disappointed not hitting the eagle putt. Hit a lob wedge stone dead at 10. I wasn't hitting putts at this stage, so it was good to hit one where I couldn't miss.

Then I holed my two putts on 14 and 15. They were the bonus putts of the round. I holed about, two putts maybe, 15 to 18 feet sort of length. 16 is probably, it's got to be closest to the hardest hole we would ever see, certainly in stroke play golf. It's incredibly difficult. I didn't have a club in the bag for it to be honest. It's always 3 iron for me today. I only carry a 4 iron and 5 wood and I wasn't risking hitting a 5 wood across the water trying to hold it up into the wind. Tried to hit a draw up with a 4 iron and laid it up nicely 15 yards short. Wasn't disappointed with that at all. It was a fairly straightforward chip and putt; it was a poor effort on my behalf. It was good to make birdie the next. I was comfortable in the bunker. I have to think my short game has got to be a little stronger tomorrow. There was a number of pitch shots like that one on 16, the one on 9; around the greens, 40, 50 yards where just I didn't hit them close enough, so hopefully it will be a little bit sharper with my wedges tomorrow and hole a few more putts.

Q. Are the greens here the key for a good score?

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, every day we play, you've got to hole putts. In professional golf, the standard is very high and the only way to differentiate from that is to hole putts. Yes, like all golf courses, the greens here, reading the greens, hitting good putts, it's so important. It's very hard to make a lot of birdies unless your holing putts, unless you play great; you're going to hole a lot of 10 footers, so, yes putting is a major part of it, especially if you're playing well. It's hard to putt well, and with the more greens you hit, you tend to be that little further away, and it is harder to be a good putter.

So it puts even more emphasis on hitting lots of good putts and holing your fair share like I did on 14 and 16 today, which I think I would have been very frustrated with my round if I don't hole those two putts. They were both from eight feet, which is so by into means a given, so when you get one, it creates good momentum going forward. If you want to do anything well, putt well; follow that with think well, and then probably follow that with drive well.

Q. How do you describe the golf you saw out of Bubba?

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: He hits it so straight. It's unbelievable how straight he hits the ball. It is incredible, like you know, guys can hit it a long way, and Bubba is long, there's no doubt about it, but he's incredibly straight. Like the lines, the couple of lines he took out there, he just never looks like he's going to miss it and hit it off line, which is quite unique to be able to hit it that far and so straight. It's a nice talent to have. You think about a lot of long hitters, on certain golf courses, you can get the effective short hitter hitting driver where he's hitting 3 wood or an iron off the tee, but Bubba actually hits driver more than anybody else. It's unusual to see the long hitter always reaching for the driver, and it's obviously the best club in his bag and certainly it's incredible how straight he hits it. It must be easy to play golf perfect where he hits had all the time.

Q. Is this actually only the second time you've played this course, and how did that affect the way you approached it?

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Yesterday was the first time, today is the second time. Probably just a little bit lucky that there wasn't too much wind today. You know, you could play the golf course more or less with the yardage short today because there wasn't a huge amount of wind there. The ball, the conditions, the golf course, responded exactly how you would expect. So there wasn't a lot of local knowledge today but if we got a change of wind direction tomorrow, it's not like it's going to firm up overnight or anything. But if we got a change of wind direction, that would be very awkward for the likes of myself, Bubba and Webb. I think Keegan said he played in a directly opposite wind from last year, so I hope it doesn't happen tomorrow.

Q. Is there a par-3 that you play on a regular basis that strikes fear in you like 16 does?

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: There's plenty that strikes fear in me. I could give you a long list. I could start with the 17th at Sawgrass. I don't know if there's many that are as long. It's a small garden down there. Like a lot of times when you get a long par 3, the green would be three times as wide. I did a show for the Golf Channel yesterday hitting wedges in there and I thought it was a tight hotel hit from 107 yards. There are other par 3s, it's like - okay, 17th Sawgrass, 17th at Wachovia, they are shorter holes but those two holes are pretty scary.

I'm sure I could - you could start picking up a few when the greens firm up. But in terms of a raw hole, that 17th there, the 16th hole here is as tough a golf hole as you could ever see, and especially as conditions were as benign today, so the ball is traveling, the green is soft - that's as tough a golf hole. You put the whole combination together, it's as good a golf hole as you could ever see, hopefully I'll get through it tomorrow in stroke play. It's not great when you're walking up a par 3 to see the drop zone walking up.

MODERATOR: The Padraig Harrington Show continues later tonight.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.