Ireland’s Padraig Harrington is in close pursuit in the Irish open at Royal Portrush just two strokes behind leader unknown Frenchman Gregory Bourdy who is at 12 under par.

After his round of 67 Harrington warned Bourdy he was hot on his trail. The two other irish contenders Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell at five under and Dareen Clarke at four under  were further back.

Harrington said he felt very good about where he as placed.

“This is a course where it’s easier to be the chaser than the one holding the lead.

“It’s tougher because every shot out there has trouble and if you are trying to hold on to something you can get defensive and find that trouble.

“Whereas if you have freedom in your game there’s potential for making birdies.

“If you’re chasing you have nothing to lose so you can stand up, open the shoulders on your drive and relax.

“It doesn’t matter if you wing one into the rubbish – it won’t really cost you anything.

“It’s that sort of course that lends itself to great golf but also puts somebody with something to defend under pressure.

“When I won The Open at Birkdale I felt like I was the favourite going into the last round and maybe that’s the position I’m in now.

“I’m sure Gregory at 12 under par doesn’t feel like that but there will be a lot of expectation on me.

“Chasing is so much easier and to be able to take a lead and go with it takes a bit of courage.”

Bourdy thanked local boy Darren Clarke for advice that helped him get round this famous old links unscathed.

But Clarke himself was just happy to make his first cut of the year after a 69 got him well inside the mark on four under.

Bourdy said: “This week started well because I played a practice round with Darren and he gave me advice.

“Not many people will have benefited from Darren’s advice on every shot. I asked him a few times how he played the hole because the wind is very different here. Then in the evening I saw him one more time to learn a few more things about the end of the course.

“I have links experience from early in my career. When I was an amateur I lost in the semi-finals of the Scottish Youths and I also remember starting very well in Carnoustie when Padraig Harrington won The Open.

“I was at the same score after two rounds as he was but didn’t finish very well. I hope this weekend is going to be my best on a links course.”

Padraig Harrington believes there is a win for him in the near futureGetty