Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Irish Open: Ross Fisher has the nerve to hold off Padraig Harrington

Family affair: Ross Fisher celebrates with his wife Jo and daughter Eve on the 18th green
Family affair: Ross Fisher celebrates with his wife Jo and daughter Eve on the 18th green

The Kingdom has been heaven for new champion Ross Fisher, second-placed Padraig Harrington and, indeed, the entire ‘3' Irish Open.

Phenomenal crowds of 81,738, the biggest aggregate attendance at the Irish Open since Portmarnock in 1989, were thrilled by four days of superb golf on the Killeen Course at Killarney Golf and Fishing Club.

The spectacularly beautiful shores of Lough Leane echoed to their roars by day, while the town of Killarney literally rocked by night, blasting away the dark clouds of doubt which had hovered over our national championship for the past eight years.

Harrington's reward for his week's work by far exceeded the €333,330 he earned in second place. Of far more importance is the confidence the Dubliner rediscovered, especially in his short game, as he swept to by far the best of his 35 runner-up finishes as a professional.

After performing a stunning, Houdini-like sequence of escapes on Friday, Harrington spoke of that ‘Holy Grail' sought by every golfer — those days when all the elements of the golf game, long, short and putting, come together.

Well yesterday he probably got as close to it as we've seen since Sunday afternoon at Royal Birkdale in 2008, when he won the second of his three Major titles.

Second is never an altogether happy place but Harrington once again was surrounded by a renewed aura of self-assurance as he prepared to fly out of Farranfore this morning to Akron, Ohio, for this week's Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.

“Oh, I'm not disappointed,” he insisted.

“At the end of the day, Ross Fisher deserved to win this tournament. He played great golf; going out as the leader and shooting 65, that's a winning week for him.

“Going into the next two weeks, I'll just keep doing what I've been doing all year, keep working on it and just try a little bit to let it happen a bit more. I think at times, I'm trying a little bit too hard and just not relaxing enough and just letting it happen.”

Harrington's 15th top-10 in 12 months should lift the Irishman four places to 15th in today's world rankings, though the most significant steps he made in Killarney were up in the Ryder Cup charts.

While yesterday's victory propelled Fisher into sixth in the race for automatic selection on the European team to play at Celtic Manor, Harrington is now just one place away and a paltry €54,653 shy of the all-important top-nine.

Given his resurgence in form in Killarney, it would be hugely surprising if he didn't make the team on his own steam at Firestone or in next week's US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

Yet Colin Montgomerie would be crazy not to give Harrington a captain's pick if he needed one — with an ingenious short game like his, the Dubliner is capable of breaking the heart and crushing the resolve of any match play opponent.

His ability to recover from the most outrageous positions was seen to most exhilarating effort on the sixth and 12th holes yesterday.

Harrington hit his tee shot so far left of the green at the 214 yard sixth, it landed on the downslope of one of the seventh's tee boxes.

With the flag on the far side of the green, perilously close to a bubbling book, it was going to take both confidence and courage to hit his ball close. Yet Harrington fearlessly drew his lob wedge and executed a full flop-shot of which even Phil Mickelson would have been proud.

His ball soared high and touched-down gently just four feet from the pin.

“Starting three behind Ross today, I knew I had to play all the shots,” Harrington said.

“So there was no point in backing off.

“I was delighted, it's nice when you take on a shot like that that you do execute it the right way, so that gives me some confidence going forward,” he added. “It's probably a shot I would have hit as an amateur with my eyes closed, but not quite the same when we are playing the pro game.”

More typical of Harrington's play yesterday was the eagle at 16 which lifted him to 16-under par and, for the third time earned him a share of the lead. After hitting his tee shot 317 yards into the heart of the fairway, the Dubliner slammed a fabulous five-iron to 12 feet.

Fisher heard the might roar but was undeterred, taking the sound advice of his caddie Phil ‘Wobbley' Morbey by hitting 3-wood instead of driver off the tee at 15; missing the fairway bunker for the first time in five successive rounds and leading to a crucial, confidence-boosting birdie.

IRISH OPEN FINAL SCORES

Collated final round scores & totals in the European Tour 3 Irish Open, Killarney Golf & Fishing Club, Killarney, Co Kerry.

(Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 71):

266 Ross Fisher 69 61 71 65

268 Padraig Harrington 68 67 69 64

270 Chris Wood 71 65 66 68, Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (Spa) 66 69 68 67

271 Richard Bland 69 71 66 65, Richard Green (Aus) 65 70 69 67

273 Michael Hoey (inset) 66 69 71 67

274 Francesco Molinari (Ita) 67 66 69 72

275 Brett Rumford (Aus) 66 69 73 67, Richie Ramsay 71 68 72 64, Joost Luiten (Ned) 74 65 70 66

276 Anders Hansen (Den) 67 68 70 71, Darren Clarke 66 70 71 69

277 David Drysdale 67 71 72 67, Paul Lawrie 66 72 72 67, Paul McGinley 68 68 71 70, Johan Edfors (Swe) 67 69 71 70

278 Robert Jan Derksen (Ned) 71 70 70 67, Seung-yul Noh (Kor) 66 69 70 73, Paul Waring 75 66 67 70

279 Sam Hutsby 69 69 71 70, Shane Lowry 74 65 68 72, Matteo Manassero (Ita) 72 70 68 69, Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel) 68 73 70 68, Jamie Donaldson 72 70 72 65, Graeme Storm 70 71 70 68

280 Jean-Baptiste Gonnet (Fra) 66 74 70 70, Stephen Gallacher 70 72 72 66, Andrew Dodt (Aus) 67 72 74 67, Simon Khan 68 70 73 69

281 Graeme McDowell 70 72 68 71, Peter Whiteford 70 69 72 70, David Dixon 67 68 76 70, Richard Finch 70 72 72 67

282 Rory McIlroy 67 68 76 71, Damien McGrane 65 72 75 70, Mark F Haastrup (Den) 67 72 67 76, Richard McEvoy 69 72 69 72

283 Anthony Wall 72 70 71 70, Marcel Siem (Ger) 66 70 73 74, Gregory Havret (Fra) 72 69 70 72

284 Anthony Kang (USA) 69 71 74 70, Sion E Bebb 70 71 70 73

285 Anton Haig (Rsa) 66 70 75 74, David Howell 64 75 73 73, Steven O'Hara 68 71 72 74, Paul Broadhurst 68 71 72 74, Justin Rose 74 68 73 70, Markus Brier (Aut) 69 72 74 70, Phillip Archer 71 69 74 71, Alejandro Canizares (Spa) 69 70 72 74, Mark Foster 69 70 73 73

286 Eirik Tage Johansen (Nor) 67 73 74 72, Rick Kulacz (Aus) 71 70 71 74, Maarten Lafeber (Ned) 70 71 72 73, Mark Brown (Nzl) 72 68 73 73

287 Danny Lee (Nzl) 67 73 73 74, Robert Coles 69 73 76 69, Peter Baker 71 70 73 73, Ariel Canete (Arg) 69 72 73 73

288 Martin Wiegele (Aut) 67 73 73 75, Peter O'Malley (Aus) 69 72 75 72

289 Alastair Forsyth 69 70 72 78, Oskar Henningsson (Swe) 72 70 75 72, Pablo Martin (Spa) 73 69 74 73

290 Barrie Trainor 69 73 77 71, Patrik Sjoland (Swe) 68 70 75 77

292 Martin Erlandsson (Swe) 71 70 72 79

294 Julien Quesne (Fra) 71 71 74 78

295 Mikael Lundberg (Swe) 71 70 76 78

DQ: 282 Marc Warren 69 71 72 70

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