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Classic comeback as Padraig Harrington returns to top

By Karl MacGinty

Sweet redemption! Padraig Harrington returned to the mountain top yesterday.

After plumbing dark depths in recent years, the 43-year-old Dubliner showed the fire and finishing power of a Major champion still burned deep within with a dramatic sudden-death victory at The Honda Classic.

Harrington's journey back to the promised land through a weather-blighted weekend and sun-splashed Monday morning on The Champion Course at PGA National brought his seven years and seven months win drought on the US Tour to an immensely fitting conclusion.

Suddenly, after slumping from his all-time high of World No 3 in August 2008 to a career-low of 385th last year, Harrington now has a $1.087m winner's cheque in his hand, while the mantle of greatness is being thrust upon him once again.

He joins Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and Mark Calcavecchia as only the fourth man to win this prestigious tournament twice.

Yesterday's win, clinched on the second play-off hole after his 21-year-old opponent, Daniel Berger, hit his tee shot into the water on the way to a double-bogey five at the par three 17th, is of more significance to Harrington after the harrowing time he's been through.

"No doubt there have been low points," he admitted. "In 2008 and 2009 I'm very much in the penthouse. I wasn't quite down in the doghouse but I wasn't very far away from it."

The fringe benefits are fantastic. For a start, he's won an invitation back to the Masters. Missing Augusta last April and, indeed, the US Open, must have been especially painful.

He also has won back the US Tour playing credentials and has risen from 297th in the World to 83rd.

He returned home last night to Ireland for a much-needed break and long-awaited celebration.

Leading on seven-under through two rounds, on Sunday evening Harrington found himself wallowing in ninth place on three-under, four behind Ian Poulter.

Drawing on his never-say-die attitude yesterday, he ripped into the lead with a spectacular run of four straight birdies from the 11th to the 14th holes, taking advantage as Poulter, Paul Casey and Patrick Reed folded.

Fate tested Harrington's character one final time when he hit his tee shot into the water at 17, resulting in a double-bogey five that left him needing a birdie four at 18 to tie the lead with local youngster Berger.

Harrington did the necessary to force the play-off.

He and Berger then halved 18 before fate brought Harrington back to 17, where he took the initiative. This time the ball flew straight and true at the target, stopping within 40 inches of the cup.

With pressure heaped upon him, Berger hit his tee-shot into the water on the way to a double-bogey, effectively ensuring Harrington's redemption.

Belfast Telegraph

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