He eventually added a final round of 68 to his three previous 67s for a 15 under par total of 269 that left him in a share of 4th place, two behind Steve Stricker and one adrift of Jason Dufner and Scott Verplank.
The Irishman played beautiful golf over the opening nine holes to get to 16 under and into a one-stroke lead turning for home in this, the second tournament on the US Tour’s FedEx playoff series.
However, he had to take penalty shots after wild drives at two of the next three and ultimately those wild shots cost him the chance of a first tournament victory since the 2008 US PGA Championship.
Harrington appeared to get into the ideal groove from the outset and shot four almost effortless birdies on the way to an outward 32 that moved him to 16 under and into a one stroke lead. The first came at the long 2nd where he caught sand off the tee but still was left with a seven footer for birdie which he calmly holed.
He followed with successive birdies at the 4th , where he came out of a greenside bunker to five feet, and the 5th , where he drilled a glorious long iron to more or less the same distance. Harrington then hit two majestic woods to within nine feet of the flag at the 600 yards 7th only to see the eagle putt slip just past the left edge.
After a flawless outward journey, a hugely significant result was very much on the cards for the38-year-old Dubliner. But golfing disaster was again lying in wait for the man who had thrown gilt edged chances for victory in both the WGC-Bridgestone and US PGA Championships within the last month. After driving into a hazard with a three wood at the 10th and taking a penalty shot, Harrington had to produce a magnificent “flop” shot from the right rough to within a couple of feet of the cup to escape with a bogey.
Worse followed at the 12th. He hooked his drive into an unplayable lie and had to go back and play his third from the tee. The outcome was a double bogey six and it was always going to be uphill after that.
To his great credit, however,Harrington recovered from yetanother badly hooked tee shot to leave his nine iron from thick rough little more than a yard from the flag and he duly converted that to get to 14 under for the tournament. That left Pádraig needing an eagle at the long 18th to stay in with a chance of winning and a massive drive left him 219 yards to the flag. He followed with a magnificent five iron to ten feet but the putt for a three slid by on the right of the hole.
He has now finished 2nd (Bridgestone), 2nd (Barclays) and 4th (Deutsche Bank) in three of his last four tournaments in the States and is up to 8th in the FedEx seriesheading for the final two events, the BMW Championship starting at Cog Hill, Chicago, on Thursdayand the season-ending TourChampionship at East Lake, Atlanta, a week later.