Harrington holds nerve in play-off to banish demons

Irishman relieved at not letting another chance slip as he beats Bjorn at first sudden-death hole while Woods finishes down the field

Tiger Woods may have been safely halfway across the Atlantic, but Padraig Harrington's victory in the Deutsche Bank SAP Open here yesterday was still a hard-earned affair. Woods never caught the low-scoring bug at Gut Kaden, but plenty high-calibre members of the European Tour did on an exciting final day in the rain.

Harrington's relief at winning after failing to hold on at the Benson and Hedges International last week was huge. Despite leading overnight, he twice had to claw back deficits before beating Thomas Bjorn in a play-off at the first extra hole.

"After leading basically all of last week and all of this week it would have been rough not to win here," Harrington said. "It would have been a real dent to my confidence. After last week I was thinking am I back to my old situation of not converting my chances. This win is like the Dunhill last year, more about satisfaction that I've crossed the finish line than jubilation."

Bjorn, with a brilliant closing 63, and Harrington, after a 68, tied on 19 under par, one ahead of Retief Goosen. Both had their own dramas on the 18th. Bjorn hit his approach to eight feet and could not quite convert the birdie putt to set an even stiffer target in the clubhouse.

Harrington came to the last needing a par to tie, but his approach finished 45 feet left of the hole. His putt hit a spike mark and came up 10 feet short. Holing that putt to make the play-off was brave indeed but he said: "I picked out the line quickly and it felt an easy putt."

At the 18th again for the play-off Bjorn pushed his approach in to a bunker. He came out to nine feet, but could not save par. Harrington had been 35 feet away on a similar line to his putt in regulation and this time came up three and a half feet short. Again he holed to banish his near-miss demons.

"It's about time he knocked one off," Bjorn said of the champion. "I am disappointed, but not too disappointed. I started out on Saturday with no expectations and to shoot 128 [16 under par] for the weekend is progress for me."

The day's tone was set by Niclas Fasth, who made a start in keeping with his name, if not his speed of play. He was six under for the first six holes, including an eagle at the third. His run came to a halt when he had a bogey at the ninth and his 66 left him in fourth place at 17th under. He was a stroke ahead of three young stars in the making.

Paul Casey's 67 proved he could follow up his victory at The Belfry a week ago with another fine performance. Justin Rose's 65, after 67 on Saturday, showed that his putting form is picking up at a good time in the season, while Graeme McDowell overcame a nervous start to finish strongly.

It was the first time McDowell, a Northern Irishman who won as a rookie in Sweden last year, was playing in the final pairing and it was also his first time playing with Harrington. Harrington had a bogey at the first and was soon two behind Fasth but four birdies in seven holes to the turn put him back in the lead.

Next it was Bjorn's turn to top the leaderboard as he made four birdies around the turn, added two more at the 13th and 14th and then chipped to two feet for his ninth of the day at the 17th. Harrington was now one behind with four to play, but two of them were par-fives.

He two-putted the 15th to draw level with the Dane, but could not birdie any of the last three. Goosen, who chipped in twice during his 66, had a 25-footer at the last to make the play-off but it just missed.

Woods, like Bernhard Langer in these parts, had a substantial gallery, but was never a factor in this tournament. A closing 68 left the world No 1 tied for 29th place, his worst finish since the USPGA in 2001 and his worst ever as a professional in a regular European Tour event. "Overall I am pleased with the way I played," Woods said. "I only had three bogeys for the entire week, which isn't bad. I hit good putts but they just didn't go in."

Woods finished at 10 under par, but if there was something he might be concerned about it was his relative lack of birdies at the par-fives. Still, this was hardly a course to judge his game for a US Open. "Obviously they struggled to get the greens in the shape they were the last time we were here," he said. "But they did their best and everyone had to putt on them."

Harrington will not be at the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth, a decision made all the more extraordinary by him going top of the order of merit after collecting the £322,474 first prize here. But Seve Ballesteros will be there to meet the Tournament Committee on Wednesday in what is sure to be a lively discussion.

In the Sunday papers, the Spaniard repeated his charge that he was persecuted by chief referee John Paramor when he refused to accept a penalty shot for slow play in the Italian Open and was subsequently disqualified.

"I said I would not accept the penalty shot because I felt I was abused by the authority of the referee," Ballesteros was quoted as saying. "It was persecution. It was very obvious. I have dignity and I thought he was after me all the way. I could have taken the penalty shot, kept quiet, smiled, but I don't think that is the way someone with dignity is supposed to be. I did not want to feel like a schoolboy."

FINAL SCORES FROM HAMBURG

DEUTSCHE BANK SAP OPEN (Gut Kaden, Hamburg, Ger) (Gbr and Irl unless stated): 269 P Harrington 65 66 70 68, T Bjorn (Den) 71 70 65 63 (Harrington won at first play-off hole). 270 R Goosen (SA) 65 69 70 66. 271 N Fasth (Swe) 68 69 68 66. 272 J Rose 72 68 67 65, P Casey 70 66 69 67, G McDowell 70 65 68 69. 273 G Owen 70 69 67 67, Paul Lawrie 70 66 69 68, D Clarke 67 69 69 68. 274 T Levet (Fr) 71 67 68 68. 275 D Park 71 70 70 64, M Farry (Fr) 70 70 69 66, Peter Lawrie 67 69 71 68, N Faldo 70 67 70 68. 276 A Forsyth 70 67 72 67, G Havret (Fr) 70 70 68 68, A Coltart 68 67 70 71, A Wall 71 70 64 71. 277 S Kjeldsen (Den) 71 68 71 67, N Colsaerts (Bel) 70 70 69 68, J Bickerton 72 69 68 68, P Baker 67 69 71 70, M Tunnicliff 69 68 70 70, D Carter 69 70 68 70, R-J Derksen (Neth) 70 69 68 70, S Gallacher 71 67 68 71, M Vibe-Hastrup (Den) 71 67 66 73. 278 G Rojas (Arg) 69 69 72 68, T Woods (US) 69 71 70 68, C Rodiles (Sp) 72 69 69 68, S Leaney (Aus) 72 70 68 68, R Karlsson (Swe) 68 67 71 72. 279 J Rystrom (Swe) 71 68 72 68, E Canonica (It) 71 71 69 68, S Scahill (NZ) 72 70 69 68, P Fowler (Aus) 72 68 70 69, R Jacquelin (Swe) 68 68 73 70, K Eriksson (Swe) 72 65 72 70, H Bjornstad (Nor) 70 72 67 70, S Wakefield 70 69 69 71, J Van de Velde (Fr) 72 67 69 71, C Montgomerie 69 69 68 73. 280 N Dougherty 73 68 69 70, A Hansen (Den) 68 70 69 73. 281 D Drysdale 74 68 70 69, D Howell 71 71 69 70, J Elson 71 70 69 71, M Maritz (SA) 71 71 68 71, K Na (S Kor) 69 68 71 73, F Widmark (Swe) 70 71 66 74. 282 M Pilkington 74 68 72 68, F Jacobson (Swe) 71 68 74 69, N O'Hern (Aus) 69 73 68 72, P O'Malley (Aus) 69 66 74 73. 283 W Bennett 68 69 76 70, B Barham 68 70 75 70, M Lundberg (Swe) 70 71 72 70, J Moseley (Aus) 72 66 74 71, M A Jimenez (Sp) 68 71 71 73, S Tinning (Den) 72 70 68 73. 284 G Emerson 73 68 72 71, S Little 74 68 69 73. 285 R Rafferty 74 68 74 69, R Siem (Ger) 72 69 75 71, M Ilonen (Fin) 72 70 74 71, C Cevaer (Fr) 68 71 75 73. 288 M Brier (Aut) 69 72 73 74, S Webster 76 66 72 74, P Golding 74 67 70 77, S Khan 72 70 69 77. 291 J Lomas 70 72 76 73. 292 J Lupprian (Ger) 70 70 74 78. 298 G Birch 71 69 78 80.

EUROPEAN TOUR VOLVO ORDER OF MERIT: 1 P Harrington (Ire) £702,101. 2 E Els (SA) £694,760. 3 P Casey (Eng) £496,529. 4 P Lonard (Aus) £364,074. 5 A Scott (Aus) £357,413. 6 R Goosen (SA) £326,741. 7 T Bjorn (Den) £289,344, 8 K (Eng) £251,537. 9 R-J Derksen (Neth) £249,889. 10 F Jacobson (Swe) £241,848. 11 Paul Lawrie (Sco) £240,235. 12 B Davis (Eng) £236,287. 13 D Clarke (N Irl) £227,785. 14 T Immelman (SA) £218,335. 15 J Rose (Eng) £197,824. 16 B Dredge (Wal) £190,349. 17 S Leaney (Aus) £188,138. 18 A Atwal (Ind) £180,556. 19 J Kingston (SA) £179,622. 20 N Fasth (Swe) £177,556.

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