FRISCO, Texas – If his opening round was a southern breeze, Padraig Harrington’s second go-around at PGA Frisco’s Fields Ranch East was more of a bar room tussle. If his opening 64 was “easy” – his words – well, the 68 with which he followed it up took a lot more elbow grease. It was work, like a 12-hour day moving rocks in the quarry.
Through 36 holes of the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, Harrington holds a three-shot lead over Japan’s Katsumasa Miyamoto (69). Harrington, who moved to 12-under 132, was somewhat surprised to step to the 10th tee at 1:20 in the afternoon with his name still affixed atop the leaderboard. He viewed that as an opportunity to run away a bit, but just didn’t have all the tools he had a day earlier.
“I feel I kind of missed a chance today,” said Harrington, 51, a three-time major champion – two Open Championships and the 2008 PGA – and a four-time winner on PGA Tour Champions a year ago.
“When you're going out for your second round and you're still on top of the leaderboard you're hoping you can shoot a low one and get away from 'em. Hoping I could go out there and shoot another – hope, I suppose – but another 8 under par and get to 16 (under), and all of a sudden try and get away from the field.
“When you're leading that's the best thing to do. It didn't play like that. It was a bit constrained, I would say.”
Other golfers in this field would love to be so constrained. There is plenty of trouble off the fairways at Fields Ranch East, lurking double bogeys and the like, and through 36 holes, Harrington has nary a single bogey. The only time he came close on Friday was the par-4 fifth (his 14th), but he blasted a greenside bunker shot to 12 feet and saved his par.
“Just generally the game has been good,” Harrington said. “Clearly all parts of it. All through my game has been very solid.”
Miyamoto’s 69 on Friday included a double bogey at the par-4 sixth hole, but he rebounded with birdies on his next two holes. Through two days, Miyamoto has been a birdie machine.
Starting his day on the 10th, Harrington made three late birdies on his opening nine (taking care of two par 5s), made the turn, and added one last birdie at the par-3 eighth. Stewart Cink, who turned 50 on Wednesday, cleaned up some things in his game and shot a second consecutive 68, this one making him feel a little better about his game. He is four back in his senior debut. Steve Stricker rallied on Friday, shooting 67, and he is five shots behind at the midway point as he seeks his second major title of 2023.
Harrington will be a difficult guy to catch. He is driving the ball long and straight, but the key to his scoring of late has been his putting. He is rolling it very nicely. Harrington leads the field in driving distance (314.75) as is tied with Harrison Frazar in greens in regulation (31 of 36).
He just wanted a lower score, that’s all.
“You know, it's hard to do, but you want to be a little bit freer and take a few more chances,” Harrington said. “But sometimes when you're leading you just get a little bit cautious. That's why, I suppose it happens all the time in golf, it's very, very difficult for a leader to move away from the field. It's easy for the field to chase 'em down. Because there's a bit of freedom. They have nothing to lose.”
Friday was a day when the wind picked up a little, the greens firmed up and the cream started to rise. Stricker’s success was linked to a couple of instances where he was tempted to pull off the hero shot, but instead chose to take a more conservative path. Having started his round on the 10th tee, he had a chance to go at the green at the par-5 14th hole, his fifth of the day, and had the same opportunity at the par-5 18th, where he faced only 207 yards to the front edge of the green. That’s a 4- or 5-iron in his hands.
Both times Stricker laid up; on 14, he holed a wedge for eagle-3, which got him going, and on 18, hitting wedge-wedge led him to a birdie-4. After Stricker watched fellow competitor Mark Hensby take on the 18th green with only a 6-iron for his approach, his ball bounding 35 feet past the hole, he was convinced he had made a wise decision.
“I made a 4,” Stricker said of his play at 18. “I mean, that’s the goal.”
New Zealand’s Steven Alker, the KitchenAid Senior PGA defending champion and 2022 PGA Tour Champions Player of the Year, inched his way into the top 10 by shooting 69. The cut would fall at 3-over 147, with 81 players making it to the weekend. Eleven members of the Corebridge Financial PGA Team of Club Professionals played their way into the weekend as the cutline teetered between 2 over and 3 over for much of the afternoon.
Cameron Doan, PGA Director of Golf at Preston Trail in Dallas and vice president of the local Northern Texas PGA Section, headquartered on site at PGA Frisco, rebounded from a late double bogey with some solid play down the stretch to shoot 73, getting into the weekend at 1-over 145. He currently is tied for 39th and knotted for the lead among Club Professionals with Dave McNabb of the Philadelphia PGA Section, who had an incredible rally late Friday.
McNabb, 57, had made news with an ace a day earlier, the historic first at PGA Frisco, but was highly disappointed with his round of 78. On Friday, the PGA Head Professional from Applebrook Golf Club (Malvern, Pennsylvania) played his last 10 holes in 5 under par to shoot 67 – one shot off the day’s best score – and pull up alongside Doan at 1-over 145. He made birdies on his final two holes, sinking a 25-foot putt at the par-4 ninth.
Other members of the Corebridge Financial PGA team to make the cut:
Tracy Phillips; Mike Genovese; Tim Weinhart; Bob Sowards; Jeffrey Schmid; Jeff Brehaut; Tim Fleming; Mark Brown; and Chad Proehl.
Said Doan, “Today was tougher. I didn't hit it as good today. Had to scramble. So I probably got as much out of it as I could today. Greens got a little bit baked out when the breeze got blowing, it got tougher. Golf course showed its teeth a little more. But couldn't be happier.”