By Bernie McGuire
NEWCASTLE, Northern Ireland (Reuters) - Three-times major champion Padraig Harrington boosted his hopes of qualifying for next month’s U.S. Open by moving to within a shot of the lead after two rounds of the Irish Open on Friday
Harrington, 43, went to seven under par with three birdies but dropped five shots over his closing eight holes for a 73 and a two-under par tally at Royal County Down.
It left Ireland's Harrington just a stroke behind clubhouse leaders Richie Ramsay of Scotland and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger who both carded 67s.
Strong winds and intermittent showers again played havocwith the field and a number of former Irish Open winners and leading European players looked certain to miss the halfway cut.
World number seven Sergio Garcia, who won the event in 1999, shot scores of 75 and 79 and defending champion Mikko Ilonen of Finland carded rounds of 75 and 77.
Frenchman Victor Dubuisson, a member of last year’svictorious European Ryder Cup team, recorded five bogeys, a double bogey a triple bogey and a quadruple bogey in a round of 84.
Harrington, world number 86, teed up three days after missing out by a stroke on a U.S. Open qualifying playoff spot. “I’m disappointed with my finish today as I was very comfortable through 28 holes,” Harrington told reporters. “I had a putt to go eight under par and everything was easy at that stage.
“What I went through over the last six or seven holes is what most of the players are going through all the time, so I feel bad, but then it seems to be the way that most of the course is playing for most of the guys.
While Harrington concentrates on becoming only the second Irishman to capture two Irish Open titles, Ramsay and Wiesberger have their minds set on earning one of three places available in this year's British Open at St. Andrews. “I failed to qualify for The Open the last time it was played at St. Andrews so I would love to play my first Open on the Old Course,“ Ramsay told Reuters.
"It was not in the forefront of my mind at the start of the week but now after these two rounds that is very much a goal, as is a second Tour win this season.”
World No. 1 Rory McIlroy began his second round at nine over par, desperate as tournament host not to miss the Irish Open cut for the third time in a row.
(This story corrects Duibuisson's round details in the sixth paragraph)
(Editing by Ed Osmond)