FRISCO, TX — Padraig Harrington he was in position for a 54-hole scoring record and a comfortable lead in the Senior PGA Championship.
Then the 51-year-old Irishman had to go to the bathroom.
Paddy found the potty, had a problem with the door, rushed for the next shot and hit the ball into an area of native grasses on his way to a double bogey.
“As we’re on the Champions tour, I had the longest pee ever,” said Harrington. “And then I ran down the fairway and hit. I just wasn’t focused, I wasn’t into it and I hit a bad shot in gambling. That’s my excuse. It has to be original, I would assume it.”
At least he still has a one-shot advantage Steve Stricker in the final round match of the opposing Ryder Cup captains from 2021.
Stricker, by far the hottest PGA Tour Champions player and leader of the American loss to Harrington’s crew in Whistling Straits, is one shot back on par with the tournament’s best Harrington, 8-under 64 from the opening round.
Harrington’s lead on the back nine was briefly as large as six shots. Instead, he opted for a second consecutive 68 and was 16 under 200, one stroke away from Sam Snead’s 50-year Senior PGA record of 54 holes.
Stricker extended his record streak of champions in rounds equal or better to 48 in a row with four birds on every nine. The 56-year-old did not finish outside the top eight in his first eight starts in the Championship.
“It’s a nice position to try to be aggressive and you really have nothing to lose, you’re trying to move up the leaderboard,” said Stricker, who wins in the first senior major of the season, his second consecutive Regions Tradition win two weeks ago.
Stewart’s Zinc he cleared a 191-yard 13th hole in the first event at the Fields Ranch East course at PGA of America’s new headquarters in Texas, about 35 miles north of Dallas, Frisco.
He is 3 shots behind Harrington as the last of only three in 6 shots from a par-72 lead set to host the PGA Championship in 2027 and 2034 and possibly the Ryder Cup in the late 1930s.
Harrington gave Cink a jumping high five after his playing partner’s iron deflected about 20 feet short of the 13th hole and rolled. Cink kissed his wife and caddy, Lisa, and handed the signed ball to a fan.
Making his PGA Tour Champions debut a few days after turning 50, Cink had to leave his home region on the next hole at age 14, but saved par. Two birdies and a bogey on the last four holes left him in 67th.
“I don’t know if I was ever eight years old. I think I was seven,” said Cink. “She (Lisa) said, ‘Let’s just try to pick our way back to something like screaming distance here.’ This kind of gave me the confidence that instead of recovering everything at once, I could just choose it. “
Harrington, the 2008 PGA champion and two-time Open Championship winner, came close to escaping 50 holes and even dodging what appeared to be the first breakthrough moment.
Just on the edge of the home area, on a short par-4 15, Harrington made a few swings to see how tall grass would affect the shot, then finally placed the ball 15 feet away and just missed the birdie putt.
There was no escaping trouble on par-4 16th.
Harrington knew immediately that his approach shot was not good, and he hit the tall grass several times before taking his first shot. The ball barely moved and the second attempt was a high arch shot that landed about 20 feet from the cup. Harrington missed the bogey putt.
“I knew he went to the restroom because I was telling a story and he took a dip,” said Cink. “It must not have been a very good story because he just had to go to the restroom instead of listening to the rest of my story.”
Stricker tied Harrington with a birdie putt on par-5 on the 18th, but Harrington matched it to regain the lead, firing a long bunker shot from 10 feet away.
Harrington aims to become the first wire-to-wire winner since then. Rocco Mediate in 2016
“Some days … you get the wrong shot, you take a break and you birdie,” said Harrington. “Other times you play nice and solid and steady and then you just get sucked in. I would be delighted to show up tomorrow and play the way I played today.”