Pádraig Harrington eyes Senior Open after stunning closing eagle leaves Irishman just one back

The Dubliner, who is bidding to become just the fifth player to win The Open and Senior Open titles, hit a nine-iron to five feet and rolled in the putt for a level par 71 that left him tied for second with New Zealand’s Steven Alker and three-time Major winner Vijay Singh on one-over par.

With winds gusting up to 31mph, no players were able to break par at The Senior Open for the first time since the first round of the 2005 edition.

The last time it occurred on the PGA TOUR or DP World Tour was the third round of the 2008 Open Championship when Harrington was crowned Champion Golfer of the Year for the second time.

“Obviously a big break on the last,” said Harrington after lipping in for eagle at the last after a rollercoaster round.

“Hit 3-wood, 9-iron to five feet. It was inches. I was going to hit the putt left lip, and I was standing over and it was blowing and blowing. I ended up hitting it — tried to hit it left half, probably hit it straight and just got in the right side.

“You know, I’ve chipped poorly this week. That’s my strength and I chipped poorly. I had two big long weeks.

“I didn’t finish as well as I would have wanted in Scotland, and then The Open, being a major, I was just working hard for two weeks. You know what, I put down a few down chips just to being mentally tired.”

The Dubliner, who turns 52 on Monday, bogeyed three of his first five holes, then eagled the sixth from long range before following a bogey at the ninth with birdies at the 12th and 14th, where he chipped in.

He lost a ball at the 16th but got up and down from sand for a double bogey before closing with that spectacular eagle.

Cejka made his fourth birdie of the day at the last as he battled to a three over par 74 to end the day as the only player on level par.

Second-round leader Alker struggled to a five-over-par round of 76 but still remains in the hunt for his second Senior Major title after recording an ace at the par three 15th.

“I didn’t feel like I had done much wrong to be three over,” Harrington said of his start. “In one sense, I felt okay about how I was playing and in the other sense, I wasn’t sure.

“You’re never quite sure how the rest of the field is going to go. I’m four over par, the leader is four under, and you’re kind of worried you’re going to get eight, nine shots at the end of the day, which is too much.”

Darren Clarke shot 73 to share 32nd on seven-over with Damian Mooney tied 45th on nine-over after a 75.

Meanwhile, Leona Maguire will likely need a repeat of the closing 61 she carded in 2021 to have a chance of her maiden major title after she fired a four-under 67 to go into the final round of the Amundi Evian Championship eight shots behind her former college teammate Celine Boutier.

Th French star shot 67 to lead Japan’s Nasa Hataoka by three shots on 11-under at Evian Resort with Maguire tied for 14th on three-under after a three-putt bogey six at the last.

“Overall, it was a pretty steady round,” said Maguire, who equalled the lowest round in major history to finish tied sixth two years ago.

“I putted really nice today. Finished with a three-putt, but other than that, putted really nice. Few nice birdie putts, gave myself a lot chances today, which was good, and bring that momentum into tomorrow.”

She will likely need more fireworks on Sunday to challenge for her first major.

“Yeah, I think it all depends how the golf course is set up,” she said. “If it’s set up like today you have to go low, if it’s set up like yesterday you have to be more conservative. Just have to see what we get tomorrow.”

In the Irish Challenge at Headfort, joint overnight leader Conor Purcell carded a three-over 74 to go into the final round tied for seventh with Clandeboye’s Jonny Caldwell (71) on six-under-par.

They are four shots behind Norway’s Kristoffer Reitan, whose 68 gave him a one-shot lead over American Jordan Gumberg, and battling not only for victory but the Horizon Irish Open invitation awarded to the leading Irishman.

Amateur Mark Power shot 69 to share 18th on four-under with Conor O’Rourke tied 37th on one-under after a 71.

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