Padraig Harrington, a playoff loser the two times he qualified for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, gave himself a chance Tuesday to win as an alternate.
Harrington, who skipped the BMW Masters in Shanghai to play in Bermuda, made seven birdies for a 5-under 66 at Port Royal to take a two-shot lead over Masters champion Bubba Watson going into the final round of the 36-hole exhibition for the year's four major champions.
U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson had a 69. Keegan Bradley, who replaced PGA champion Rory McIlroy, rounded out the four-man field with a 72.
Harrington was asked three days ago to fill in for British Open champion Ernie Els, who has a minor ankle injury. Despite a careless three-putt for bogey on No. 3, the Irishman regained some momentum with a birdie on the next hole and kept it going.
"It was nice to get off to a good start," Harrington said. "I had a 15-footer at the third and kind of lost my focus a bit on the line and drove it through the line and then hit a bad putt coming back, a terrible bogey. It wasn't feeling great. You need to be making the birdies at that stage."
Harrington, who lost in playoffs to Angel Cabrera in 2007 and to Jim Furyk in 2008, took the lead with a birdie on No. 10 when Watson made double bogey. Harrington made birdies on the 14th and 15th, and then bounced back from a bogey on the 16th with his last birdie of the round at No. 17.
Watson held himself back with three-putts, but the Masters champion produced the shot of the day on the par-4 15th. From deep rough on the edge of a cliff, he hit 8-iron to 6 feet to reach 3 under on the round.
"It's only a good shot if you make the putt," Watson said.
Bradley wasn't bothered by being the only player over par, even being six shots behind. He was five shots behind with three holes to play in the PGA Championship last year in Atlanta and wound up winning a playoff over Jason Dufner.
"I've been six shots back before with less time, so I look forward to going out tomorrow and just making a million birdies and having a good time," Bradley said. "I played very well. I could have really let it slip away and fought back and had a bunch of lip-outs, too, and the round could have been better than it was."
The winner gets $600,000 from the $1.35 million purse. Harrington is trying to become the first European winner since Ian Woosnam of Wales in 1991.