EDISON, N.J. -- As the last two players in FedExCup points coming into The Barclays, Padraig Harrington and William McGirt could be excused for playing with a certain amount of desperation this week at Plainfield Country Club. After all, their Playoffs lives hang in the balance. A bad week and they're eliminated.
But, Harrington said, that was not desperation out there in the first two rounds that have been highly productive for both players. That was freedom.
"We had nothing to lose," Harrington said. "We were the last men in. Definitely not desperation. Certain more freedom. It's harder for the guys who are in; they feel like they are going to lose out. The guys who aren't in -- I'm losing nothing this week."
McGirt felt the same way. Dead last in points, the only way he could move is up.
"We both knew where we stood," he said. "We were playing as aggressively as we could. We had nothing to lose."
So far, that approach has worked well. Harrington, ranked 124th in points, is at 10 under through 36 holes and inside the top five on the leaderboard. McGirt is one shot back at 9 under.
Because of their points ranking, Harrington and McGirt -- along with No. 123 Arjun Atwal -- were grouped together for the first two rounds. Atwal shot a respectable 4 under for 36 holes and should make the cut, although he needs to do more in Saturday's third and final round in order to make the top 100 which advance to next week's Deutsche Bank Championship. He's currently not projected to make next week's field.
The desperation -- make that freedom -- of all three players showed the most in Thursday's first round. They combined to shoot 17 under; the next best threesomes combined to shoot 13 under.
Only Harrington and McGirt managed to maintain that momentum on Friday, though. Harrington shot a 4-under 67 in which he felt he gave a few shots away; McGirt shot a 2-under 69.
"We both fed off each other," McGirt said.
Now, what Harrington and McGirt need to do Saturday at the very least is maintain their positions. When Harrington walked off the course Friday, he was projected in the top 50 in points; McGirt, meanwhile, was projected in the top 70.
Not only would that be good enough to make next week's field, but it would also put both players in great shape to make the 70-man BMW Championship, the third leg of the Playoffs.
But it doesn't sound like either player will take his foot off the gas. Harrington is more worried about his position on the leaderboard than the FedExCup standings. He walked off the course staring at a four-shot deficit to Matt Kuchar.
"It's a lot to ask, but the golf course is a good scoring course and somebody is going to get on a run tomorrow and shoot a low one," Harrington said. "It is hard to pick up four shots but hopefully it's going to be me."
McGirt, who said he has heard and read comments that he didn't belong in the Playoffs, is determined to reach next week.
"I'm going to stick with the same attitude as I've had in the first two rounds, which is my back's against the wall. I've got to make something happen and stay aggressive."
In other words, both players still need to keep the feeling that they're playing with house money.
"That's kind of it," Harrington said. "It's a free run."