Pádraig pleased with 'good' 24th second

SECOND for the 24th time in his career and second for the fourth time this year.

A less positive and optimistic person than Pádraig Harrington might get down in himself when he peruses such a statistic. But the 32-year-old Dubliner, quite rightly, rated this "a good 2nd" after shooting a closing round of 67 in yesterday's final round of the Nissan Irish Open at Baltray.

Yet he still fell four strokes short of the highly impressive winner, the little-known Australian Brett Rumford, who celebrates his 27th birthday tomorrow, and is now the richer by €316,660.

Both men shot 67 yesterday with the Aussie still a clear winner in spite of taking six at the last against four by the Irishman. Harrington was tied for the runner-up spot by Raphael Jacquelin from France with another Aussie Peter Lonard, who went into the final round one ahead of Rumford, in 4th place.

McGinley tied for 5th and won €68,020 and is now 22nd in the order of merit with €515,639. He is keeping his fingers crossed that he has now crashed back into the world's top hundred, which in turn will probably earn him a place in the US PGA Championship in two weeks' time. To try and enhance his ambition to do just that, McGinley has decided to compete in this week's Scandinavian Masters. For Rumford, of course, this was the kind of early birthday present that every professional golfer dreams of. He got off to a great start yesterday with three successive birdies from the 2nd but admitted that he didn't really relax until he sank a seriously difficult downhill chip shot for a birdie on the 16th.

"All the same, your stomach is grinding and your emotions are mixed," he said. "Funny thoughts enter your head, even when you stand on the 18th tee with a five-shot lead. But this is a great moment, my first big win, and I achieved it over a great course and from a number of fine Irish players

"I just tried to play my own game and keep the rest of the field out of my mind. I am as proud as punch. It is a feeling that comes around once in a while. It may be different for Tiger Woods but I am never sure when I am going to win. It also opens a lot of doors for me including the NEC World Championship."

Some 25,342 people turned up at a very blustery Baltray to watch the final day's action, the vast majority hoping that either McGinley, who began the day four strokes behind Lonard, or Harrington, who was one further adrift, might become the first home golfer in 22 years to win the national Open. It was not to be because Rumford shot such an inspired round of golf, making Harrington's disappointment a lot easier to bear.

"I look back at three rounds of golf and accept that I threw away a lot of strokes," Harrington admitted. "I hit fourteen wedge shots in the first two days and finished two over for those holes. When I went home, I practised those shots in my back garden and it certainly paid off. I was trying to shoot as low as I could. It was a case of getting better than ten under and see what happens. The home support was fantastic. So many times I have played in the Irish and European Opens and been a little in the doldrums. This time it was nice to give the crowd what they wanted." His got €165,025 and he has totalled €951,874 to stand 6th on the European money list.

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