PALM HARBOR — Padraig Harrington has proven he can win golf tournaments all over the world. He has three major championships to his credit and 21 wins worldwide.
He is also proving this week that he can compete on a course he is playing for the first time.
Harrington followed his opening-round 69 with 6-under 65 on Friday for a one-shot lead over a strong leaderboard at the Transitions Championship on Innisbrook's Copperhead Course.
Harrington was at 8-under 134, a shot ahead of former tournament champions Retief Goosen and Carl Pettersson, as well as Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson. Also lurking two shots back are the No. 2 player in the world rankings, Steve Stricker, and veterans Jeff Maggert and Steve Elkington.
Harrington only had time for one Tuesday practice round on Copperhead. Wednesday, he took a private plane to the White House for a St. Patrick's Day celebration before Thursday's round. None of that seemed to matter.
"If I thought going to the White House would detrimentally affect my performance, one or the other would have to be given up,'' Harrington said. "I felt (the visit) put a little more risk into it, but it hasn't affected me obviously. I wish I would've known this golf course more, and I'm still getting to know it.''
Harrington, whose last win was the 2008 PGA Championship, had seven birdies and a bogey Friday. Without much course knowledge, Harrington said he is firing at flags and taking his chances. While he acknowledges pin placements will be harder this weekend, he said he won't change his style.
"I'll have to take the same attitude I have for the first two days,'' Harrington said, "which is fire away at them and not worry about it until I get up there. It has not cost me too badly so far.''
Several players who have much more course knowledge will chase him. Pettersson and Goosen have won here, and Furyk, Stricker and David Toms (5 under) have contended.
Pettersson shot 3-under 68, but doesn't think he played his best round.
"My driver sort of left me on the back nine,'' he said. "My iron game and putting was still there, but I just didn't give myself enough chances on the back nine. But overall, three birdies and no bogeys is good around here.''
For Furyk, just contending after two rounds is fine. He hasn't won since the 2007 Canadian Open, and he looks forward to ending that streak.
"I'm disappointed in not winning a golf tournament,'' Furyk said. "It's been 2½ years. It's a fact. I'm bothered by it because it's my fault. But I wake up every morning and work hard to try to win a golf tournament.''
No player made a bigger move than Toms. He had a bogey-free round that included eight birdies on his way to 8-under 63. That was an 11-shot difference from his opening round and put him three shots off the lead.
"I certainly didn't think that was in my game right now,'' Toms said. "I haven't had a low round all year.''
Now the tournament really begins. There were 16 players within four shots of Harrington. He feels his best golf is still to come this season, but his game is good enough now to win.
"I'm capable of winning in the form I'm in,'' Harrington said. "Am I in my best form? No. Am I getting there? Yes. I'm not far away.''