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Padraig primed to end long drought

ESPN staff
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Padraig Harrington has not won on the European Tour since the 2008 US PGA Championship © PA Photos
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Padraig Harrington is in position to record his first European Tour victory in nearly four years after three rounds of the Irish Open.

Harrington, the three-time major winner, sits at ten under, two shots behind Welsh leader Jamie Donaldson, with Anthony Wall second at 11 under.

World No. 69 Harrington continues to look a real contender for the Open Championship at Royal Lytham next month, having finished in a share of fourth earlier this month at the US Open. However, he remains winless on the European and PGA Tours since the US PGA Championship in 2008.

Battling driving rain and heavy winds for much of his round, Harrington played the front nine in a one-over 36, dropping shots at the fourth and seventh, both par fours, and notching a birdie at the par-five ninth.

A couple of terrific iron shots on the back nine allowed him to make two birdies: at the par-three 14th, and par-five 17th, where his approach shots left him with putts inside ten feet. He signed for a 72 that was worth its weight in gold given the conditions.

Meanwhile, world No. 2 Rory McIlroy, playing for the last time before the Open Championship, came flying out of the blocks with a brace of birdies at two and three, then proceeded to miss a host of birdie putts. He failed to pick up another shot at any of his final 15 holes and, at six under, will need to produce a mighty effort on Sunday to take home the title on home soil.

Graeme McDowell (four under) puffed out his cheeks after stroking in a par putt at the 18th, and that said it all about a testing round for the 2010 US Open champion. He was battling against the tide after a double bogey at the par-four seventh, and he played the remaining 11 holes in one under to complete a creditable, but ultimately unthreatening, 73.

Paul Lawrie is four over following a 76, while Darren Clarke's 73 took him to three under. Defending champion Simon Dyson is six under.

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