Friday, 19 March 2010

Reuters - Padraig Harrington won a sudden-death play-off against Welshman Bradley Dredge to end the 25 year wait for a home winner of the Irish Open at Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort.

Harrington made a par at the first extra hole to dispose of Dredge, when both finished on five under par 283, four strokes ahead of the field.

Sitting four ahead of the field by the turn, Harrington had looked home and dry but he stumbled several times on his way home as he shot a 71.

By contrast, Dredge flourished, hitting back at the Irishman to card a 68, equalling the Adare Manor course record.

When Welshman Dredge found the water hazard at the 18th, the first extra hole, with his third shot, though, a safe crossing of the River Maigue by Harrington earned the 35 year old Dubliner his 11th European Tour title and ended the wait for Irish fans.

John O'Leary, now a European Tour Director, had been the last Irishman to prevail in the event in 1982.

O'Leary sent a message to Harrington before the off, via the his coach Bob Torrance, in which he said: "just do it. You're Europe's number one."

When Harrington produced a scintillating burst from the seventh, birdie-birdie-eagle, he lived up to his 2006 European Number One status and position as World Number 12. An eagle with only a seven-foot putt rounded off a charge that in the end gave him just enough cushion to make the play-off.

But then the pressure of trying to end Ireland's barren run started to tell in a flurry of loose shots as playing-partner Dredge reduced the margin of lead by chipping in at the 14th  and holing a 30-footer on the 15th to be only one behind.

A birdie on the 17th for Dredge and pars for both on the last, took the event into extra holes in front of a near-incandescent 23,000 home gallery.

An emotional Harrington, admitting to nerves at the end, said: "I feel sorry for Bradley because he really came at me.

"I felt the pressure. It was probably the most nervous I've been for many a tournament.

"I've always said that after the four Majors this is the next event I've wanted to win.

"The crowd was fantastic. Even when I saved for bogey they cheered and the applause definitely gave me a boost."

Having pipped Paul Casey for Europe's Order of Merit last season, with a €416,660 win Harrington has now taken over the Englishman's third place in the European rankings, with only leader Henrik Stenson and Retief Goosen above him. Harrington also now moves back into the World's Top Ten. 

Dredge never gave up, making up a four-stroke deficit on the back nine but could not match the Irishman in sudden-death.

"My long game wasn't great but I hit enough good iron shots close and putted well," said Dredge. "I had a chip in on 14th and knew I had to stay focused. I knew my short game was good enough to battle it out and hope he made a few bogeys as well. In the end it was just one of those things on the last.

"Before I went out I knew I had to shoot a good score and had a good run at the end of the front nine, kept my head down and played my own game. It is just frustrating to give it to him the way I did in the end."

England's Simon Wakefield holed a 30ft birdie putt on the last to separate himself from Australian Richard Green, Argentine Andres Romero and South African Louis Oosthuizen and claim third place.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
T1HARRINGTON, PadraigIRL18-5
T1DREDGE, BradleyWAL18-5
3WAKEFIELD, SimonENG18-1
T4GREEN, RichardAUS18Par
T4OOSTHUIZEN, LouisRSA18Par
T4ROMERO, AndresARG18Par
R2D Fantasy

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