Portuguese Masters ends eight year European drought for the 45 year old, three-time Major winner.
Up until last weekend, 13th place at the PGA Championship was Padraig Harrington’s best 2016 finish and there wasn’t a queue outside the bookies to avail of the 80/1 odds being offered should he win last week’s Portugal Masters. Not for the first time in his career, the 45 year old, 3 time Major winner confounded the experts by holding his nerve to win the event by a single shot and pocket the first prize of €333,000.
After an illustrious career that has seen the Dubliner win tournaments across three decades, Harrington could be excused for fading into semi-retirement and focusing on preparing for the Seniors Tour or Ryder Cup captaincy.
When asked about his interest in the 2018 Ryder Cup a few weeks ago, his stance was firm: “I want to play, that’s where I stand.” Last week he showed that is not beyond the realms of possibility. Very few golfers possess a mind blessed with the positivity of Harrington and his ability to think his way around a golf course has been one of his greatest assets. However he spoke about chinks in his mental armoury earlier this year, saying: “There is no doubt I am not as strong mentally as I was at one stage.”
Honesty is also one of his strongest attributes, but there were a number of Europe’s finest who weren’t questioning his mentality at the weekend. Padraig showed all his experience under pressure with his closing bogey free 65 to get to 23 under par and beat Ryder Cup man Andy Sullivan by one shot.
Getting up and down from heavy rough by the 18th green shows he can still cope with difficult shots under pressure. The victory takes Harrington’s European Tour tally to 15 wins and moves him alongside Thomas Bjorn on the all-time list.
“I haven’t won yet this year and I know the year is nearly done, it’s always important to get a win every year,” he said. Last year he won the Honda Classic in the States.
“There’s so many Irish people here it always felt like home away from home, so it’s really nice to win the tournament. I tried to be really aggressive. The course suited me and I just tried to go after every pin I could and make birdies. I have a pretty good short game that was on form this week.
No matter where I hit it, I felt I could get it up and down.” Having originally intended to play a number of tournaments on the USPGA Tour’s wrap around season during the coming weeks, Harrington has had to revise his plans.
With this victory he jumped to 43rd in the latest Race to Dubai standings and earned a place in the Turkish Airlines Open, the Nedbank Challenge and the DP World Tour Championship.
His win moves him inside the world’s top 100 and his primary aim is to earn a place in next years US Masters at Augusta. To achieve that he will need to reach the top 60 and after last week who would bet against him? Despite missing the cut last week, Ireland’s Paul Dunne retained his tour card for next season, finishing 107th on the European tour Order of Merit.