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August 9, 2009

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Harrington stays ahead in Akron

PADRAIG Harrington played patiently on a course that is becoming increasingly difficult to negotiate to take a one-shot lead in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational second round on Friday.

Bidding for his first victory of the year on any of the leading tours, the Irishman followed his opening 64 with a one-under 69 on a tree-lined layout running fast and firm.

Two ahead overnight, Harrington mixed two birdies with a sole bogey to post a seven-under total of 133 in the final World Golf Championships event of the season.

South African Tim Clark was alone in second after carding a 68 at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, with US Ryder Cup player Scott Verplank (69) a further stroke back at five-under.

Americans Steve Stricker (69) and Jerry Kelly (65), plus Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand (70) were at four-under 136, with big-hitting Alvaro Quiros of Spain also shooting a 65 to lead the group at 137.

World No. 1 Tiger Woods, seeking his fifth PGA Tour victory of the year and a record seventh title at Firestone, was five strokes off the pace after returning a 70.

Harrington, competing in his first tournament since the British Open three weeks ago, was delighted to maintain control after covering the back nine in one-under 34.

"I'm obviously happy," the 37-year-old Dubliner said. "Anything under 70 from here on in is going forward so I'm quite pleased to have shot 69."

World No. 2 Phil Mickelson, back on tour after a six-week break while supporting his wife and mother during their breast cancer treatment, was at one-under after a 69.


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