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Harrington earns 1st PGA Tour win when Singh misses short putt

| Monday, March 14, 2005

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- The short putt went to the right in the fading light -- just the break Padraig Harrington needed.

The Irishman won the Honda Classic for his first PGA Tour title when Vijay Singh missed a 2 1/2-foot putt to bogey the second playoff hole.

"I thought it was a gimme," Harrington said.

"I shouldn't have missed," Singh said.

If Harrington was lucky, he was also due -- he has been a runner-up 26 times in worldwide events. And he earned the victory Sunday by shooting a 9-under-par 63 in the final round to erase a seven-shot deficit.

Ranked eighth in the world, Harrington is believed to be the first player from the Republic of Ireland to win a tour event. An assistant to Irish President Mary McAleese phoned with congratulations, and Harrington said he knew his countrymen were watching the tournament on TV.

"I'm sure I kept a few pubs open tonight," the Dublin native said. "It's very good to be the first Irishman. Nobody can take that away from me."

Later Sunday, Irishman Des Smyth won the SBC Classic in California for his first Champions Tour title.

Joe Ogilvie also made the playoff but was eliminated when he bogeyed the first extra hole, missing the fairway and needing four shots to reach the green.

The par-4 No. 18 was used for both playoff holes, and Harrington scrambled to get up-and-down for par each time. Singh, meanwhile, uncharacteristically failed on the verge of victory.

He missed a 15-foot birdie try on the first playoff hole that would have given him the win. After Harrington made a 4-foot putt to par the second extra hole, Singh pushed his par try and the ball rimmed out.

Harrington broke into a surprised grin.

"It was a shock," he said. "It's nice when somebody does that, considering how many times I've been close and it has been taken away from me."

Singh declined to appear in the media interview room but spoke briefly to a network TV reporter.

"I was a little disappointed," he said. "I hit that putt a little too hard. I should have just rolled it in; It was straight down grain. Obviously you can't miss putts like that in the playoff."

Singh's defeat came one week after his six-month reign atop the world rankings ended when Tiger Woods overtook him by winning the Ford Championships at Doral. Singh had no chance to regain No. 1 at the Honda and remains ranked second behind Woods, who skipped the tournament.

Harrington, winner of 10 worldwide events, embarked on a full-time PGA Tour schedule for the first time just two weeks ago. The move has already paid off with his first winner's check -- for $990,000.

"I decided I would play more over here to try to win an event just to get that monkey off my back," he said.

He acknowledged thinking about matching the tour record of 59 when he birdied 10 of the first 13 holes. Consecutive bogeys ended that bid, and he was in a four-way tie for the lead when he finished nearly 90 minutes ahead of the last group at 14-under 274.

Twenty players began the final day within six shots, and five shared the lead during the round. Harrington, Geoff Ogilvy and Brett Wetterich were alone in front at various points. Pat Perez moved into a tie for the top, then bogeyed Nos. 11 and 13.

Wetterich, who had been among the leaders all weekend, fell from the top of the board with a triple-bogey 7 at No. 13. His second shot went into a hazard, and his chip came up short of the green.

Playing on the weekend in a PGA Tour event for only the second time since 2002, Wetterich shot 73 to finish tied for sixth at 11-under.

Perez shot 70 to finish fourth at 13-under. Former PGA champion David Toms finished fifth at 12-under by shooting 67, which gave him 20 consecutive rounds of par or better.

With the wind of the first three days dying down, scores went down, too, at the Country Club of Mirasol. Lucas Glover shot 63, matching Harrington for the best round of the tournament. Glover nearly holed his second shot at No. 18, then missed a 5-foot birdie try for a 62. Joe Durant birdied his first seven holes, one shy of the PGA Tour record for consecutive birdies. He struggled on the back nine and shot 70 for finish 4 under.

Chad Campbell, the first-round leader with a 64, closed with a 71 and finished 2-under.

Harrington's final-round comeback was a Honda record. All of his birdie putts were less than 13 feet until he made a 33-footer at No. 13, putting him in the lead at 15 under. He then missed two consecutive greens and bogeyed both holes, but birdied 17 with a 7-foot putt.

"I hit it just fantastic for the first 13 holes," Harrington said.

And at the end, he had a little help from Singh.

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