Padraig Harrington won his seventh title on The European Tour International Schedule when he twice showed a steely resolve on the 18th green at Gut Kaden to fend off the challenge from Thomas Björn to claim the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open TPC of Europe.
The Irish Ryder Cup player needed to hole a 12 foot par putt on the last to force a play-off after Björn had charged through the field with a final round 63, nine under par, to set the clubhouse target on 269, 19 under par. He did so unerringly, and both players returned to the 18th tee to begin the play-off.
This time around Björn pushed his six iron approach into a bunker and splashed out to eight, from where he missed his par putt. Harrington, on the green in two, putted up short to four feet but, once again, maintained his icy cool to rap in the putt for victory.
"It would have been a real dent on my confidence if I hadn’t won," said Harrington afterwards. "I thought I had it licked at the end of last season when I won a few times but last week I wondered if I was back to my old situation and not converting.
"I felt I played well today and stuck to my guns.It didn't feel nervous at the 18th and it’s a big confidence boost to get over the finish line again."
“It’s about time he knocked one off,” declared Björn, referring to Harrington’s string of second place finishes, including last week’s runner-up position behind Paul Casey of England at The De Vere Belfry.
Retief Goosen of South Africa closed with a 66 for 270 and third place while Niclas Fasth of Sweden took fourth on 271 after matching Goosen’s last round score.
It was a wonderful finale to the tournament which produced a leaderboard packed with class. Harrington had started the final round two ahead of Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell but dropped out of the lead with a three putt bogey at the first.
Undaunted, the Dubliner played the remaining 17 holes without dropping a shot, making four birdies on a front nine of 33 and one more coming back for a round of 68.
Goosen, who had shared the lead with Harrington after the first round, compiled a six birdie round of 66 to get within a stroke of Björn and Harrington. However he confessed that his erratic driving had let him down and he chipped in twice for brdies, at the second and 12th.
In the end the South African ran out of holes and he was unable to pick up shots at each of the last four holes. He said: “That was typical of my day. I played terribly and only started hitting fairways near the end. When I didn’t I couldn’t make a putt. I scrambled well and had my chance but couldn’t grab it.”
Fasth lived up to his surname by launching a blistering attack on the Gut Kaden course, covering the first six holes in six under par with the assistance of a three iron to ten feet for an eagle at the third. At that stage, the Swedish Ryder Cup player was in front but a bogey at the ninth and three putts at the 12th halted his momentum.
“I gave it a real effort but always felt I needed two or three more birdies” he said. “I put a little bit extra into it and came up short, but it was still an encouraging week.”
Three of the brightest young players on the Tour finished tied for fifth on 16 under par. Casey shot a 67, Justin Rose a 65 and McDowell a 69. All three acquitted themselves superbly to underline their huge potential.
Casey, with four birdies in a row from the 12th, added a fifth place finish to his victory in last week’s Benson and Hedges International Open, while his fellow Englishman Rose – third in the same event last year – again came through strongly. He picked up five shots between the third and ninth to turn in 31 but picked up strokes at the two par fives coming home.
“That was good today, but I thought 19 under par was the mark” he said prophetically. “I feel I am making progress and feel good about next week when I will see David Leadbetter at Wentworth.”
McDowell, playing in the final match with Harrington, made two bogeys early on but played flawless golf for the last 13 golf to finish one ahead of his fellow Ulsterman, Darren Clarke, who carded a 68.
Tiger Woods, who had been seeking a hat-trick of titles, ended the week with a four under par 68 for a ten under par total of 278 and a share of 29th place.