THREE-TIME Major winner Padraig Harrington believes he has rediscovered the magic formula after conjuring play-off victory to end his seven-year wait for silverware at the Honda Classic in Florida yesterday.
Harrington secured a first PGA Tour title since 2008 by beating US rookie Daniel Berger, as English duo Ian Poulter and Paul Casey finished one shot off the lead, but more tellingly perhaps sees the 43-year-old qualify for next month’s Masters.
The former world No2’s fall from grace has been stark. He won the successive Open Championships in 2007 and 2008 and the PGA Championship later that year but a sustained challenge in the sport’s higher echelons faded.
A two-shot success at the Asia Tour’s Indonesia Open in December hinted at a revival as a four-year title drought was ended, and Harrington is convinced his latest triumph is not a dispiriting false dawn.
“Hopefully this isn’t an isolated win. I hope not, I really do believe in myself,” said Harrington. “I think I’ve found that mental edge I’ve been lacking in recent years. Hopefully I’ll be able to stick with that and be consistently contending.”
Victory at the Honda Classic sees Harrington surge to No82 in the world rankings after slipping to the depths of No297 after his barren spell, a period the Dubliner accepts has been sobering.
“Yeah, there have been some changes. You go from the penthouse down to still pretty nice hotels,” he joked. “There’s no doubt on your way back down it’s a lot different.”
Harrington struck the fatal blow on the second play-off hole as 21-year-old local favourite Berger found water with his tee shot after the pair were tied at six under at the climax of a rain-delayed fourth round.
He had started the day five shots off the lead but hit four consecutive birdies as overnight leaders Poulter and Casey saw their challenges slide.
Harrington held the outright lead until the 17th hole but fluffed his tee shot, only forcing a play-off with a 15-foot putt on the 18th. Casey and Poulter finished joint third with Scot Russell Knox on five under.