Friday 24 November 2017

Padraig Harrington eyes bright horizon after PGA Grand Slam win

Padraig Harrington poses with the trophy after winning the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda
Padraig Harrington poses with the trophy after winning the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda

William S Callahan

IT'S been 738 days a coming! The longest drought of Padraig Harrington's stellar career ended in Bermuda at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf.

How sweet the victory champagne tasted for the Dubliner (41) at Port Royal Golf Club as he celebrated a one-stroke success over hard-charging US Open champion Webb Simpson.

Just four players compete in this annual 36-hole event, but it's confined exclusively to Major champions.

The prestige of the occasion is reflected in the $600,000 (€462,845) Harrington earned yesterday, his biggest cheque since finishing tied second at the 2009 Bridgestone WGC.

The money's good, but joining 1991 winner Ian Woosnam as the only European winners in the 32-year history of the Grand Slam Championship yields an even greater dividend for Harrington. It represents a huge endorsement for one of the hardest-working players in pro golf.

Harrington somehow always manages to come up smiling, but Ireland's proud three-time Major champion probably felt every one of the 1,062,720 minutes since his last victory.

"This feels good," he beamed. "I haven't won in a while so it's nice. There's no doubt, it's very important to win. It felt exactly like any Sunday at any other tournament out there."

Beaten only in extra-time by Angel Cabrera (2007) and Jim Furyk (2008) on two previous appearances in Bermuda, Harrington was delighted last Saturday to be called in as a replacement for injured Open champion Ernie Els.

After a season in which he'd played splendidly from tee to green, earning his place among just 12 men who made the cut at all four Majors, Harrington travelled to the mid-Atlantic island believing he could make it third time lucky.

His faith was amply rewarded yesterday as Harrington followed up on Tuesday's first-round 66 with an assured 67 for a nine-under-par finish.

The Dubliner, who led Bubba Watson by two overnight, sank a monster 35-foot putt at eight for his second birdie of the day to stay one ahead of Simpson. He pressed on from there, surging four clear as he completed a splendid hat-trick of birdies at 13.

Treacherous

Simpson got within three with his birdie at 14, so the key for Harrington was to make par at the treacherous short 16th, which he did.

"Once I holed my putt there, I felt it was all over. It was just a case of getting the last two holes played without too much damage," said Harrington, who made his only bogey of the day, a three-putt five at 18.

"It's always nice to have three putts to win a tournament. If you have three, take them," he said smiling.

Harrington, who plays Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai next month before his mid-winter break, believes his form is good enough to yield further Major titles.

"I'm playing really good golf. I believe that there's good stuff in my game already and there's other stuff I need to tidy up," he said. "I see a lot of good things happening and I do believe that I'm turning the corner into a peak. We'll have to wait and see what that brings.

"It was pretty tough for me after (winning the Open in) 2007 and by the end of 2008, it seemed quite easy," Harrington added. "I realise with experience that the wins don't come around as often as you think. I'm looking forward to some good successes but you can't force it."

Simpson chipped in for par at the last to complete a fabulous flaw-free 65 and earn $300,000 in second place.

A disappointing even-par 71 left Watson in a tie for third on three-under with his Ryder Cup comrade Keegan Bradley. The New Englander, playing at Port Royal instead of recent US PGA winner Rory McIlroy, closed with a satisfying 67.

Irish Independent

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