Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

Padraig Harrington back to winning ways

SOUTHAMPTON, BERMUDA - OCTOBER 24: Padraig Harrington of Ireland poses with the trophy after winning the PGA Grand Slam of Golf at Port Royal Golf Course on October 24, 2012 in Southampton, Bermuda. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Padraig Harrington stormed to a £375,000 victory in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda yesterday, his first win for two years.

Not in the four-man event — meant to be a battle between the season's major winners — until Ernie Els pulled out injured last Saturday, and only there because Rory McIlroy and first two reserves Graeme McDowell and Tiger Woods all turned it down, the 41-year-old Irishman had rounds of 66 and 67 to beat US Open champion Webb Simpson by one and both Masters champion Bubba Watson and last year's winner Keegan Bradley by six.

He joins 1991 champion Ian Woosnam as the only European winners, and it was a case of third time lucky after losing play-offs in 2007 and 2008.

Two ahead overnight, Harrington went to the turn in 34 with birdies at the fifth and eighth, but with eight holes to play was only one in front of both Simpson and Watson.

Then came a hat-trick of birdies from the 11th, and although Simpson narrowed the gap by picking up shots at the 14th and 17th, the Dubliner was able to bogey the last and still triumph on nine under par.

Harrington's last victory came in Malaysia 24 months ago, but he has not tasted success on the European or PGA Tours since 2008 and is down at 57th in the world.

Harrington, who switched from the BMW Masters in Shanghai when the invitation came, said: “It was always the right decision no matter what.

“You've got to give yourself the chance, it's a fantastic tournament and even if I finished fourth I'd be quite confident that I made the right decision.

“It is a bonus to come and win, no doubt about it, and it was unfinished business for me having lost in two play-offs.”

Meanwhile, with four of the world's top five and 11 of Europe's Ryder Cup heroes in action, there is no shortage of star quality on show in this week's BMW Masters at Lake Malaren in Shanghai.

But while Ian Poulter and the rest are only too happy to keep talking about their incredible comeback in Chicago, there was one topic of conversation Rory McIlroy did not want to dwell on. When asked about rumours of a forthcoming switch from Titleist to Nike — there has even been mention of a 10-year deal worth a staggering £156m — the world number one chose to play a dead bat.

“I'll have my management company and everyone else on that side deal with endorsements,” McIlroy said.

“I'm just here to concentrate on golf this week and I've got enough to think about trying to get that ball in the hole, so no further comment on that.”

As for whether he had the ambition to surpass Tiger Woods in terms of business performance the 23-year-old replied: “I'm just doing what I'm doing — I'm playing golf and enjoying my life. If that makes me more marketable, then that's great, but I'm just doing what I'm doing and enjoying it.”

McIlroy has not only ascended to the top of the world rankings this season, but also grabbed his second major and won the PGA Tour money list.

Last year Luke Donald achieved an unprecedented PGA and European Tour double, but the young Ulsterman is on course to match him.

He currently holds a lead of more than £353,000 over Justin Rose, but with a first prize this week in excess of £720,000 and four more weeks still to come the race is far from over.

“It's very important,” he added. “That's the one last big goal of the year. I'll be giving it my all this week and trying to get another win.”

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