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Transitions leader Harrington happy to play with Tiger at Augusta

Irish golfer Padraig Harrington is running into form as he seeks to win the Masters for the first time next month.
Irish golfer Padraig Harrington is running into form as he seeks to win the Masters for the first time next month.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Padraig Harrington says he would be happy to partner Tiger Woods at the Masters
  • Disgraced former world No. 1 Woods will return to golf at Augusta next month
  • Harrington says he would be comfortable with the prospect of such a pairing at that venue
  • Irishman shoots his best score of this year to take halfway lead in Florida tournament

(CNN) -- Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington fired his best score this year to take the halfway lead at the Transitions Championship in Florida, and then claimed he would be happy to be paired with Tiger Woods when the disgraced world No. 1 makes his golfing comeback at the Masters.

The Irishman, whose last victory on the PGA Tour came at the U.S. PGA Championship in 2008, carded six-under-par 65 on Friday to move a shot clear of defending champion Retief Goosen, Sweden's Carl Pettersen and Woods' fellow Americans Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson.

Asked if he would relish the opportunity to be paired with Woods at Augusta next month when the fallen superstar returns following his admissions of marital infidelities, the 38-year-old said he could handle the attendant pressures of such an occasion.

"If there is an issue being drawn with him in his first tournament back, if you're going to choose a golf course for it to happen, Augusta is the place," Harrington told reporters.

If if you're going to choose a golf course for it to happen, Augusta is the place
--Padraig Harrington
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"It is as ordered as can be there, so I for one would be quite comfortable if I got drawn with Tiger. I do not see it being any different than being drawn with him the first two rounds last year.

"I do believe, though, if it was first two rounds at Bay Hill, that would be slightly different. But then again, you wouldn't mind being there to watch it all!"

Harrington is seeking to build on last weekend's third placing at the WGC-CA Championship in Miami, which was won by South African veteran Ernie Els, ahead of this season's first major tournament.

The two-time British Open champion was four shots adrift of first-round leader Garrett Willis after an opening 69 at the Copperhead course in Palm Harbor on Thursday, having missed the pro-am to attend President Barack Obama's St Patrick's Day dinner at the White House.

He carded five birdies and a bogey on his front nine, and picked up shots at 11 and 16 to be on eight-under 134.

South Africa's Goosen, himself a two-time major winner, followed up his 67 with a 68 -- with Pettersen and Furyk doing exactly the same.

Watson moved up the leaderboard with an eight-birdie 65 as he overcame successive birdies midway through his front nine to join the others on 135.

World No. 2 Steve Stricker was tied for sixth after his 66 left him level with fellow American Jeff Maggert (68) and Australia's Steve Elkington (68) on 136.

Willis slumped to a tie for 66th after a horrendous 77 which saw him double-bogey the first two holes, drop another shot at the third and then card another double at the ninth and a bogey at 11.

World Match Play victor Ian Poulter missed the cut of 143 by three shots after a second successive 73, while British Open champion Stewart Cink, fellow major winner Rich Beem and young Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa also failed to make the weekend rounds.