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Harrington’s second coming

A NOTHER second place finish, another big pay day (€333,330), a bundle of world ranking and Ryder Cup points.

It’s been a great 3 Irish Open for Pádraig Harrington, even if he couldn’t repeat his victory of three years ago at Adare, and one that hopefully will kick-start what has been a low-key campaign so far.

Occasionally on the 35 occasions when he finished in the runner-up spot, Harrington had reason to be annoyed, but that certainly was not the case at Killarney yesterday.

He completed the championship with a superb combination of ball striking, solid putting and remarkable recovery play to put together a fine round of 64 and yet had to concede defeat to Englishman Ross Fisher by two shots. There was little more he could have done even if he did miss from five feet on the first green and not a whole lot longer on the 17th where a birdie would have put Fisher under serious pressure.

But there were occasions when he defied all logic to make par, such as at the 12th where his ball was literally buried in a bunker but he somehow got it out to seven feetand sank the putt!

At the par three 6th, one of Killeen’s most dangerous holes, he was well left of the green off the tee but produced a wonderful flop shot to again save his par. They were just two of several Houdini-like moments during the four days.

Harrington was well satisfied. " I certainly would have taken 64 going out at the start of the day," he agreed. "I definitely had chances to go lower but I also recovered once or twice to keep things going. I can’t be disappointed – Ross Fisher has gone out leading, shot 65 and deserves to win."

It all means that Harrington has moved up 16 places in the Race to Dubai order of merit on the European Tour to 16th while he is now 9th in the European Ryder Cup points list from which the top five automatically make the side. The full picture won’t emerge until the world rankings are announced today after the completion of the Greenbrier Classic on the US Tour.

Of the recovery at the 6th, Harrington maintained that "I would probably have hit it with my eyes closed as an amateur but it’s not quite the same when you’re playing the pro game. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a hard shot if you were down the field but today I knew I had to go for those kinds of shots as there was no point in backing off."

He was less sanguine about his prospects when he saw his plugged ball at the 12th.

I couldn’t believe it, I was really shocked," he admitted. "I thought I was going up to a chip shot where the spectators had been standing. The only thing about it was that last week I was doing a corporate day for FTI, one of my sponsors, and during the clinic one of the guys asked me to hit a few plugged balls off an upslope in a bunker. So I actually practised it for five minutes last week and learned quite a lot. There’s no way I would have played that shot as well as I did without that session."

So it was one of those "good second place finishes" and it will almost certainly have a very beneficial effect on Harrington’s season as he now sets off with refreshed confidence for the WGC-Bridgestone Championship in Akron followed immediately by the US PGA Championship.

"I’ve had plenty of good second places," he smiled. "I walk away from this one with no regrets. It was a good solid week. I hit some really nice shots at times and my short game was sharp and I’m happy to see that. It was one of the best weeks I’ve had all year short-game-wise so that’s very positive. In the States, I will just keep doing the same things. I am more focused on the mental side than anything else at the moment. When I’m in that area of my game, I do tend to play well. I just have to be a little tighter and trust it a bit more."

As Fáilte Ireland’s golfing ambassador, Pádraig had a special interest in seeing the return of the championship to Kerry voted a success and he had absolutely no doubts on that score.

"The golf course is fantastic, it really is a great venue," he stated. "I think it was ideal, it was fair and it was exciting. There were plenty of birdies. The players liked it. I’ve heard different things like, oh, we should have heavier rough and firm the greens up. Yeah, we could do all that and the players would shoot level par and go away not liking it. The golf course is definitely the winner this week."

"It was very exciting for me out there. Obviously I had tremendous support and I can tell you this – I wasn’t complaining every time I holed a birdie putt for those cheers to be going up because everybody on the golf course knew it was me making the birdie. And of course it’s very nice when you have that support and actually deliver because it can work the other way sometimes. Making the birdies kept me going and kept the crowd going so we both worked together."