Padraig Harrington overcame a broken driver during warmups and what he called a rough patch mid-round on Friday to post a 6-under-par 65 and take the 36-hole lead by one stroke over 2019 champion Steve Stricker in the 42nd U.S. Senior Open Championship on the Old Course at Saucon Valley Country Club.
Harrington, of the Republic of Ireland, turned 50 last August and is competing in his first U.S. Senior Open. The three-time major champion (2007 and 2008 British Opens; 2008 PGA Championship) weathered a rainy Round 1 on Thursday morning, then reeled off six birdies in a bogey-free round on Friday afternoon, with three of the birdies coming in a five-hole stretch late in the round.
“I was happy with the level par [on Thursday], even though it could have been a lot lower,” said Harrington, who competed in six Ryder Cups for Team Europe, winning four, before captaining the losing side in 2021. “I knew with the better weather today, just stay patient. I holed a few putts. They didn’t drop yesterday.”
Harrington noted “a bit of drama” when he broke his driver in the middle of his pre-round warmup. “I had to replace the driver I played with yesterday, and this one flew a little higher, a bit more spin, so it was a little different,” said Harrington.
Though it didn’t cost him any strokes, Harrington felt like he was sidetracked by missing a short birdie try on No. 15.
“I missed a 3- or 4-footer and it kind of set me back,” said Harrington, who has three runner-up finishes in his last five starts but has yet to win on PGA Tour Champions. “I didn’t hit a good tee shot off 16 afterwards. Just felt at that moment I was trying a little bit too hard. … Just a couple of holes where I felt I was trying to do it rather than letting it happen. I definitely got back into it later on in the round.”
Stricker, of Madison, Wis., followed up an opening round of 3-under 68 with a 2-under 69 on Friday that was highlighted by a flurry of three birdies to close his round on Nos. 16-18.
“I had a couple of other opportunities on the back that I didn’t make,” said Stricker, who took a leave of absence from the tour for health reasons after the 2021 Ryder Cup, in which he captained the winning USA side. “But I told my brother-in-law, Mario, who was caddieing for me, let’s try to get one or two coming in the last three holes. I just wanted to get back to even for the day and ended up birdieing the last three. It was a good way to finish the day.”
Stricker, who broke several scoring records in his victory three years ago on The Warren Course at Notre Dame (Ind.), did not compete in the 2021 U.S. Senior Open after it was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re halfway home; we have a jammed-up leader board,” said Stricker, who is seeking his fifth senior major title and won the Regions Tradition last month by six strokes over Harrington. “There’s a lot of people up there. It’s going to take some great golf this weekend to come out on top.”
Rob Labritz, of Pound Ridge, N.Y., a former club professional who earned his PGA Tour Champions card in December, is alone in third place after shooting his second consecutive 2-under 69. A group of five players that includes 68-year-old Jay Haas, who bettered his age by one on Thursday; Pennsylvania native and 2008 U.S. Open runner-up Rocco Mediate; 2016 U.S. Senior Open champion Gene Sauers; Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, who won the Tour event hosted by Stricker in Madison two weeks ago; and red-hot Steven Alker, of New Zealand, who has three victories and no finish lower than T-3 in his last six starts; are tied for fourth at 3-under 139.
Miguel Angel Jimenez, a two-time runner-up in the U.S. Senior Open, shot the low round of the championship thus far on Friday, a 7-under 64, bettering his Thursday effort by 15 strokes to move into a tie for 22nd place.
Defending champion Jim Furyk, a native of West Chester, Pa., who has struggled in 2021, bogeyed his final hole of Round 2 to make the cut on the number at 5-over 147.
Round 3 will begin at 9:45 a.m. EDT on Saturday with the final pairing of Harrington and Stricker starting at 2:55 p.m. Peacock will stream the action live from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. with Golf Channel picking up the coverage from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“It's a much stronger test than I expected. This is way, way tougher than our regular Champions Tour events. I knew this was a big advantage to me starting the week, both lengthwise and being able to play from the rough if I am in the rough. This is a big golf course, well set up. I know it's gotten a little soft, so the scoring is better because of that.” – 36-hole leader Padraig Harrington on the setup for the U.S. Senior Open
“I just hate missing cuts, I guess, but for some reason or another, I've played well in Senior Opens. Somebody said to me on Wednesday that I'd never missed a cut, and I wished I hadn't have heard that because that was kind of all I was thinking about.” – Jay Haas after making it 17 for 17 in made cuts in this championship
“Yesterday, it's not me. It's a different guy (laughing).” – Miguel Angel Jimenez when asked about his 15-stroke difference between Rounds 1 and 2
“I don't know how I did that actually. I wasn't happy. My caddie (Sam Workman) just said, ‘OK, let's go. We got a new nine.’ It's probably a good thing it was a new nine. I just steadied the ship and made some nice shots [coming home].” – Steven Alker (3-under 139) on recovering from a double-bogey 6 on No. 18, his ninth hole of the day
“It's good to feel uncomfortably comfortable. It's what you want to feel. Regardless of what happens, the feeling on the first tee tomorrow, whatever time I tee off, will be cool… and I haven't felt it in a while.” – Rocco Mediate on heading to the weekend three strokes off the lead
“Nothing really changed except for the speed of the greens. I mean, they were soft, but they were fast. I mean, it felt like 2, 3 feet faster. Obviously, we played later yesterday and it was wet, but, I was shocked how fast they were. I just never got my speed today.” – Mark Hensby, the 18-hole, co-leader on Friday’s course conditions
“I just hit a lot of drivers, and they eventually crack. I don't even use my tournament driver now when I'm at home practicing. But I do a lot of driver work, a lot of speed work. I think I'm the only one who's ever cracked one of those drivers, and I've done it three times now.” – Padraig Harrington, on cracking his driver during his pre-round warmup
Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of content for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.