Harrington and Lowry hit heights
SHANE LOWRY and Padraig Harrington delivered performances packed with eastern promise as they tied for third in weather-hit, 54-hole tournaments at opposite ends of Asia yesterday.
Harrington handed over his Iskander Johor Open crown to Holland's Joost Luiten but the €75,201 cheque the Dubliner received for his share of third place in Malaysia with Rhys Davies and James Morrison boosted his prospects of making the 60-man field in next month's Dubai World Championship.
More than three thousand miles away in Japan, Lowry completed his second visit to the Dunlop Phoenix in precisely the same position as his first in 2009, third on seven-under-par, leading the Clara lad to exclaim: "I love this place and this tournament."
Of the two, Harrington was in much more need of the confidence boost brought by his best finish of a miserable year, though the three-time Major champion was still frustrated after missing late birdie chances that might have forced a play-off.
"I'm disappointed not to have chipped and putted on the 16th and 18th holes," he admitted after a final round of two-under-par 69 left him at 13-under, two shy of the winner. "It's a real pity, but there you go, it is what it is.
"I was happy with a lot of things this week. I'm happy with my form. I'm happy with the way I'm playing. Most of all I'm happy with where my head was at. I'm just a little disappointed with the finished result.
"When you get that close, put yourself in contention, you want to pull it off but it's not always possible.
"Joost (Luiten, 25, whose 65 overhauled overnight leader Daniel Chopra to clinch his first European Tour victory) obviously played very well today.
"At least it gives me a lot of confidence for the last couple of events," added the Irishman, who goes to Hong Kong in 10 days needing a top-six finish to be certain of climbing from his 64th in the Race to Dubai into the leading 60.
After missing the cut by an abject six strokes in Singapore, Harrington at least rediscovered his putting touch across the border in Malaysia as he clinched his first top-five finish since winning in Johor 13 months ago and only his second in 39 outings since his runner-up finish at the 2010 Irish Open.
Well in the hunt for victory as he turned in two-under yesterday, a couple of untidy bogeys at 11 and 12 set Harrington back. Though he rebounded nicely with back-to-back birdies at 13 and 14, the 40-year-old still came up a couple shy.
Yet by maintaining his challenge under trying circumstances as the monsoon storms wreaked havoc, Harrington hinted his frame of mind is good for his end-of-year engagements in Hong Kong and, hopefully, Dubai.
A closing 67 earned Peter Lawrie a share of 29th on six-under and €11,741, while Michael Hoey was one shot further back in 38th (worth €8,733) after his final-round 72.
Meanwhile, Damien McGrane and Gareth Maybin have both slipped a couple of rungs further down the European ladder after missing the cut.
McGrane, in 112th, should still find himself among the all-important top-115 after the remaining two events of the regular season.
However, Maybin, currently 117th, needs to boost his prospects of keeping his card this week in the South African Open and then in Hong Kong.
Lowry is so comfortably ensconced inside the European Top 60 at No 45, he could well afford a week in Miyazaki, scene of his first top-10 finish as a pro in November 2009, just six months after his sensational Irish Open victory at Baltray.
His bogey-free final round of three-under-par 68 yesterday clinched Lowry a share of third with American Ricky Barnes, leaving both of them 8.4 million Yen (€84,000) the richer.
For the second week in succession Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano led through 36 holes only for the third round to be abandoned.
Yet unlike the previous Sunday in Singapore, the Spaniard couldn't seal the deal yesterday. Four ahead setting out, he shot 71 and was left wallowing four strokes adrift by Toshinori Muto's superb winning 63.
Muto carded six birdies over the front nine at Phoenix Country Club to reach the turn in 30.
He then picked up three more shots on the way back with a bogey at the last the only blemish on his round to finish with a winning score of 12-under par.
There was some consolation for Fernandez-Castano as his second-place finish sees him climb into the world's top 50.
A lacklustre 75 left Graeme McDowell tied 38th on four-over but still hungry for this week's World Cup assault with fellow Ulsterman Rory McIlroy.
Overnight leader Garth Mulroy (33) avoided a repeat of the nightmare finish by Ernie Els four years ago to win the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek in South Africa.
Like Els, the 33-year-old South African came to the par-five last with a two-stroke lead. But, unlike Els, who put two balls in the water for a triple-bogey eight, he made no mistake.
Mulroy captured his first European Tour title when a closing par gave him a two-shot victory over Scotland's George Murray with a 19-under-par total. Two in front overnight, the Durban golfer stood on the 14th tee three clear but, as he took bogey there, Murray converted a 20-foot eagle chance at the long 15th.
Suddenly they were on level terms, but, while Murray parred the final three, Mulroy two-putted the 15th after finding the green in two and then holed an outrageous putt of around 60 feet for another birdie at the next.
The £135,000 first prize opens the European Tour door to Mulroy just a month after he earned a return to the PGA Tour in the United States via their second-tier Nationwide circuit.
Murray, meanwhile, achieved his best Tour finish seven weeks after he came third in the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, where he outscored world No 1 playing partner Luke Donald in the final round.