Harrington Leads British Golf

Friday, May 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SUTTON COLDFIELD, England (AP) — Padraig Harrington of Ireland, who said he felt uncomfortable putting, holed two big ones on his second nine for a one-shot lead Friday after two rounds of the Benson and Hedges International Open.

Harrington's 3-under-par 69 on The Belfry Course where the Ryder Cup will again be played next year, pushed him clear of first-round leader Phillip Price of Wales. Price dropped shots at the 16th and 18th holes and fell to second with a 141 after shooting a 72.

Jonathan Lomas of England, second last week in the French Open, held third another stroke behind after a 71, while Jose Maria Olazabal was the first big name to appear on the leaderboard after a day's-best 68 for 143 despite a bogey-5 after a poor drive at the last hole.

As the stiff breeze of the first day subsided Friday, defending champion Colin Montgomerie also made a move. He matched Harrington's 69, seven shots better than his opening 76, and held a share of ninth place, five strokes behind the Irishman.

Among those tied with Montgomerie at 145 is Frenchman Jean Van de Velde, who slipped to a 75, then kept quiet after stirring up a Ryder Cup earlier this week when he criticized new European captain Sam Torrance.

Bernhard Langer of Germany, the 1997 winner, was another shot back after turning in a 70.

Harrington, who won the Sao Paulo 500 years Open title last month and then finished 19th in the Masters, said his successful Ryder Cup debut last year had done the most for his game.

``It gave me extra confidence, though I don't think any person in their right mind could actually enjoy the Ryder Cup when they're playing in it,'' Harrington said.

``The enjoyment comes later, after a match or maybe after a particular shot. When I won my singles (against Mark O'Meara), I was on an immediate high, but then we lost the Cup and it was taken away. I suppose I had five minutes of pleasure.''

Harrington dropped three shots at the first two holes Thursday before battling back for a 71. On Friday, his putter got hot after an early bogey at the 12th, his third hole.

He birdied the long third, the fifth from 12 feet and the eighth from 30 feet. Then his 8-iron approach at the ninth, his last, lipped out of the hole to leave a tap-in birdie.

``I hit some good putts but I hit a lot more bad ones. But I'm not complaining. I'm scoring well,'' Harrington said.

Price described his 72 as ``messy,'' while Lomas said he was concentrating only on ``staying positive.''

Olazabal, the Masters champions in 1994 and 1999, said he has — for the moment — sorted out his driving problems.

``I'm not going to say I'm over the hump, but I've been working really hard and I struck the ball really well today and yesterday,'' Olazabal said.

Montgomerie, the world No. 3 who won his first title since last October at the French Open on Sunday, said he likes his position.

``I was about five behind last week at halfway, I'm OK. I putted OK, but I didn't strike the ball very well today,'' said the Scot, who could move up to world No. 2 this weekend.

Italian Costantino Rocca shared fifth place after shooting a 70 that contained two eagles and four birdies against six bogey-5s on his card.

Spanish veteran Seve Ballesteros, who a month ago basked in the glory of his Continental side's victory over Britain and Ireland in the first Seve Ballesteros Trophy event, returned to his erratic ways.

His rounds of 87-82 at The Belfry left him 25-over par, the worst two-round total ever for the Spaniard, who won two Masters and three British Opens between 1979 and 1988. His previous worst was 80-86 at last year's British Open at Carnoustie.