Dufner leads as Pod stumbles

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Padraig Harrington has surrendered his lead at the Transitions championship to American Jason Dufner.

Padraig Harrington stumbled with a disappointing 2-over 73 on Friday to surrender his lead at the Transitions championship to Jason Dufner.

Yes, believe it or not, this after shooting that sensational 10-under 61 in Thursday’s first round..

It was a big blow to his supporters hopes that the Irish icon was on the brink of coming in from the cold of a slump that has seen him struggling without a US win since his PGA Championship victory in 2009.

Certainly it had looked that way on Thursday when he went out and posted a career-low score that broke the course record at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead course at Palm Harbor in West Florida.

But no longer – although Harrington himself was much more upbeat about his second round stumble than might have been expected.

He said:”I didn’t do too much damage today,” he said. “It could be OK.

“But the great thing his, having shot a good score yesterday, I feel that if I play my best golf on the weekend, I could still be the winner.

“I’m still in good position.”

Dufner, whose major claim to fame to date as he seeks his first PGA Tour victory, is the fact that he reached the play-off won by Keegan Bradley at last year’s PGA, moved into the Transitions lead on Friday with the kind of consistency Harrington would have paid a king’s ransom for.

The curly-haired American picked up birdies at the first, third, fifth and ninth holes to turn in 32, before adding another birdie on the 11th that gave him a second successive 5-under 66 and took him to a 10-under halfway total of 132 that put him two shots clear Harrington and American William McGirt, who was tied with the Irishman after shooting a 68.

World No 2 Luke Donald, the highest ranked player in the field in the absence of Rory McIloy, was a shot back in a five-way tie at 7-under while Spaniard Sergio Garcia and Australian John Senden were a further shot back at 6-under in a four-way tie that also included high-profile Americans Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry.

Reigning Masters champion Charl Schwartzel had another depressing day ahead of his return to Augusta National next month, following his disastrous first round 76 with a 73 on Friday that saw him miss the cut at a moment in time when it would have been the last thing that he wanted.

One consolation, perhaps, was that he was in good company. Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa and Colombian Camilo Villegas also missed the cut

For Dufner, however, the situation is very different.

Friday’s second consecutive 66 could be a strong sign that the 34-year-old from Cleveland is hitting peak form at just the right time for next month’s first major at Augusta National.

Certainly a first PGA Tour victory following his two wins on the Nationwide Tour are within his grasp if his early consistency holds

“It’s definitely a goal, I definitely felt like last year after some close calls I was ready to make that jump and start winning some tournaments,” said Dufner, who is still bogey-free halfway through the Transitions

“It could be a great stepping stone and give me some more confidence going forward.”

Harrington said he paid the price for a conservative approach after a wonderful opening round, but felt that he was still in a good position to set things right at the weekend..

“I’m happy with my game, but when you shoot a good score, it’s hard to match it the next day,” said Harrington.

“When you’re leading the tournament, it’s hard not to be a little bit cautious and I struggled to get the ball up to the hole a lot today.”

TOP 10 LEADERBOARD

132 Jason Dufner 66 66
134 William McGirt 66 68, Padraig Harrington (Irl) 61 73
135 George McNeill 67 68, Sang-moon Bae (Kor) 69 66, Ken Duke 68 67, Luke Donald (Eng) 67 68, Chris Couch 67 68
136 Kenny Perry 66 70, Jim Furyk 66 70, Sergio Garcia (Spa) 68 68, John Senden (Aus) 66 70

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