Ross Fisher survived an inspired challenge from the home hope Padraig Harrington to lift the Irish Open title yesterday. Yet, from a Ryder Cup perspective, both players had plenty to be pleased about last night.
A first prize of £415,000 lifted Fisher from 13th to sixth in the standings and he is now odds-on to make his debut at Celtic Manor in two months' time. Harrington moved up to the brink of the automatic qualifying positions courtesy of a cheque for almost £280,000 but, at the very least, a wild card seems assured.
Colin Montgomerie, the Europe captain, is an unashamed admirer of the three-time major winner and will have been delighted with his final-day performance. From three shots behind, Harrington might have thought a closing seven-under-par 64 would seal his second national title in four years, particularly as he drew level with the pacesetter on three occasions.
But Fisher responded emphatically with a 65 to take his fourth European Tour title by two strokes. The 29-year-old's 266 aggregate, 18-under, matched the tournament record set nine years ago by Montgomerie. "I could hear the roars and knew Padraig was making a charge," the Englishman said. "I just tried to stay patient. I don't know if I have done enough to get in the Ryder Cup. But there are two more big weeks coming up."
The WGC Bridgestone Invitational starts on Thursday in Akron and then follows the final major of the season, the USPGA, at Whistling Straits. Harrington has not won for two years but the Dubliner, who now has 27 second places on the circuit, produced some spectacular shots and rated his up and down from a bunker at the 12th as "one of my best ever".
The Bristolian Chris Wood finished in a tie for third with Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez Castano.
*Stuart Appleby recorded only the fifth round of 59 in PGA Tour history to win the Greenbriers Classic by a single stroke at White Sulphur Springs last night. The Australian made nine birdies and an eagle at the par-five 12th hole as he surged from seven shots off Jeff Overton's overnight lead to seal an astonishing triumph. Overton three-putted the par-five 17th after reaching the green in two and was then only narrowly off target with a 54-foot putt at the last to come up one stroke short.