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Ryder Cup redux: Padraig Harrington leads Steve Stricker in U.S. Senior Open

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BETHLEHAM, Pennsylvania. Padraig Harrington and Steve Stricker are back on the big stage, and this time they have more of an impact on the outcome of the US Senior Open.

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The two Ryder Cup captains from Whistling Straits last September will be in the final group ahead of the Socon Valley weekend after Harrington hit three of his last six holes for the 6-under-65s and took a one-punch lead.

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Stricker, whose American all-star team strangled Europe in the Ryder Cup, did some neat work of his own to get over the sloppy start. He hit his last three holes at 69.

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Harrington was at 6 to 136 ahead of a weekend without Bernhard Langer for the first time since the great German was still in his 40s.

Full results at US Senior Open

Langer, 64, needed a birdie on his last hole to have any chance of hitting. He made a scarecrow for 75 and missed by two shots. This was the first time out of 65 senior majors that Langer failed to qualify for the weekend.

Jay Haas, 68, who on Thursday became the fifth player in US Senior Open history to drop at least his age from 67, had to make do with Tom Watson’s age on Friday. It was 72 points, and it was enough to keep him in the lineup in Saukon Valley.

Rob Labritz, a longtime club pro who earned a PGA Tour Champions card this season, scored another 69 points and was two shots behind Harrington.

The 3-under 139 group included Haas, Rocco Mediate and Steven Alker, the top player in this year’s PGA Tour Champions. Alker bounced back from a rough first round with a score of 67.

Despite the rain turning into sunshine, only 12 players remained below par. Defending champion Jim Furyk hit 76 and cut the number.

Harrington, who turned 50 last August, is playing his first US Senior Open and still has enough speed to handle tight rough that was still wet from Thursday’s rain.

He didn’t put ghosts on his card even when he veered off the fairway, and he broke the tie with Stricker with a 4-foot wedge on the eighth par-4 hole near the end of his round.

“This is a much stronger test than I expected. It’s much, much harder than our regular Champions Tour tournaments,” Harrington said. “I knew this was a big advantage for me at the start of the week, both in terms of length and being able to play in rough conditions if I’m in rough.”

Stricker didn’t do anything wrong except on the sixth par 5 hole where he tried to take on too many bumps and this resulted in a double horror. This stalled his round and then he made up for it at the end.

“I was just trying to level the ship. At the US Open, this can get out of control pretty quickly. So just try to get on the fairways, lots of greenery,” Stricker said.

Stricker said he told his brother-in-law, Mario Tiziani, who is his caddy this week, that he wants to try to win back some shots through the closing hole.

I didn’t think of three. Maybe I should have,” Stricker said. “I just wanted to go back to even today and ended up missing the last three. It was a good way to end the day.”

Harrington and Stricker remain good friends. They captained two very different teams in Whistling Straits: the Americans were young and finally at their best, while Europe had aging veterans and virtually no fans due to travel restrictions due to the pandemic.

The result was a victory for the Americans with a score of 19:9.

Now they will strike their own blows together. This is the second time in a major that the Ryder Cup captains will play together. They were also paired in the third round of Regional Traditions last month.

Harrington’s only problem was that his driver broke down during the shooting. He hits a lot of riders at home to work on his speed, so this isn’t the first time this has happened. His replacement had slightly more spin and higher flight.

“On top of that, there were just a couple of moments where I just felt like I was trying to do it and not letting it happen,” Harrington said. “I definitely came back to it later in the round. More on this over the weekend.”


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