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Pádraig form the defining moment as America earns new golfing hero

PADRAIG, we hardly knew ya! A 10th place in the Masters, Padraig Harrington's fourth time in the tournament's top 10 with a four-under par 284, was little short of sensational for the Stackstown man whose game has been in the doldrums of late.

A double bogey on the final hole took a bit of the shine off a super tournament for Harrington, but he was counting his blessings as the tournament went to a play-off.

“I've a lot of positives,” he said. “I feel good going forward. I'm in a good place.”

Before the action began on Thursday, it seemed like the world was suddenly full of experts.

On the street, in the pub, at the filling station, everyone knew how the 76th Masters might turn out. The bad weather was sure to suit Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood were in top form and would be in the final shake-up. It seemed everyone had an opinion. But no one mentioned the Florida flyer called Gerry ‘Bubba’ Watson.

Watching him yesterday was a bit like seeing rock wildman Iggy Pop with a golf club in his hands. Watson appeared wired, his bug-eyes out on stalks, a hyped-up swagger in his step.

While the calm South African Louis Oosthuizen played some imperious golf, he couldn't shake |off Watson, whose golf style was reminiscent of Hurricane Higgins |on a snooker table.

Remarkable

Oosthuizen's putting looked remarkable. The man seemed to have nerves of steel. But the leftie

from Bagdad, Florida, had a glint in his eyes. He played shots like a man who's never known fear.

The birds were singing in the trees and the evening shadows were stretching across the course as the duo, who'd begun the day behind Peter Hanson (started on -9) and crowd favourite Phil Mickelson (-8), went to a second play-off hole, the 10th. Oosthuizen had begun the day |-7 and seemed more composed than Watson, who'd started on -6. But Watson's eccentric style, and fearless play, won him the title at the Augusta National. And a legion of new fans around the world.

When he sank his final putt, he unleashed more tears than Bertie Ahern managed in his infamous interview with Brian Dobson. Asked is he'd ever imagined such a victory, he 'fessed up. “I never got this far in my dreams,” he admitted.

The swashbuckling manner of his win all but obscured the collapse of reigning US Open champion McIlroy (76) and four-time Masters winner Woods (74). Both men tied on +5.

Revelation

Westwood (68) finished third and bit back his disappointment, Poulter (69) ended seventh, while world number one Luke Donald finished three over for the tournament.

But for many of us, Harrington's return to form was the revelation of the tournament.

His USPGA triumph was in 2008, but his form at Augusta suggests his best days could be ahead of him.

The swings and roundabouts of this outrageous course threw a variety of names into the mix over the past four days.

A dozen golfers will be thinking today that, perhaps, they could have won. But this year's green jacket belongs to a maverick – and America has learned to love Gerry ‘Bubba’ Watson.


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