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Harrington shares lead in Scotland, McIlroy misses cut

© Getty/AFP/File / by Bernie MCGUIRE | Padraig Harrington of Ireland plays his shot from the 14th tee during the first round of The Honda Classic at PGA National Resort and Spa on February 23, 2017 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

IRVINE (UNITED KINGDOM) (AFP) - 

Padraig Harrington shared the halfway lead at the Scottish Open on Friday as Rory McIlroy remained optimistic for next week's British Open at Royal Birkdale despite missing the cut.

Harrington, who won the Open at Birkdale in 2008, shot a second-round 68 on Friday to take control at Dundonald Links on nine-under par with Callum Shinkwin and little-known German Alexander Knappe.

But McIlroy struggled for a second-round 71 to add to his opening 74 for a one-over total of 145 on a rain-softened course just to the south of Glasgow.

The world number four produced birdies at the third, fifth and seventh to move one under but then failed at a first attempt to get out of a greenside bunker in taking a double bogey on 13.

It is the second week in succession and also a third occasion in his last four events McIlroy has sat out the weekend rounds.

Instead, McIlroy will now head south to Royal Birkdale, and next week's 146th British Open host venue, for what will be unscheduled weekend practice rounds.

And after two separate injury concerns earlier this year and far less fairway time, McIlroy admits he is far short of competition.

"No, I have not had far enough competitive rounds this year with my injuries and I have missed a lot of events," he said.

"You just can't mess with an injury and come back too early, so I missed a lot of play because of that and I have been playing catch-up all year because of that.

"So, I would have loved to have played more rounds not just going into next week but for the whole season."

- 'No stress' -

However McIlroy believes there is enough good signs in his game to be optimistic heading to Birkdale in a goal of capturing a fifth major championship.

"I am not getting to play the weekend but again, I would be much more worried if I went out there and shot a couple of 76s and I was nowhere near trying to make the cut or not," he said.

"The difference between shooting one under par and four or five under par is not much of a difference as I played the front nine today in three under and felt pretty good.

"Look, it is what it is and I just have to get myself ready for next week.

"I just feel like I have been on the wrong side of things these past two weeks and hopefully I am on the right side next week.

"If I go to Birkdale next week and shoot a couple of even par rounds, as I have done these past few weeks, I do not think I will be far out of it."

Meanwhile Harrington, who is clearly excited about returning to Birkdale, enjoyed a calm second day compared the "stress" on day one when he frantically had to search for a lost ball late in his round.

"Today was just boring. There was no stress. All day, I made two birdies on par 5s and I hit two 7-irons on my 10th and 11th hole, the first and second hole, in pretty close," he said

"So, that was my day and it couldn't have been more opposite than yesterday."

England's Ian Poulter, who finished an Open career best of runner-up to Harrington in 2008, recorded a 69, that included holing a 40-foot birdie, to be sharing fourth place at eight under and just a stroke from the lead.

"I am really pleased and I was more balanced in my swing, even though I hit a few loose ones today, which I wasn't very happy about," he said.

"I putted nicely, again, which is kind of going in the right direction, which is always nice to see a few putts going in and including that lovely putt on 16."

World number 10 Rickie Fowler, with a round of 70, is two shots off the leading trio and sharing sixth at seven under.

by Bernie MCGUIRE

© 2017 AFP