Harrington strolls into contention for crown

Padraig Harrington claimed the 10th European Tour title of his career to charge into contention for the Order of Merit title yesterday. The Irishman carded a final-round 68 at St Andrews for a five-shot victory over Anthony Wall, the American Edward Loar and the overnight leader Bradley Dredge in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

Ernie Els eagled the 18th after driving the green to claim fifth place on 10 under. The first prize of £427,441 lifted Harrington into second on the money list, £147,900 behind his Ryder Cup team-mate Paul Casey who closed with a 68 for a share of sixth place.

"It's big, it's a huge deal," admitted Harrington, who finished second on the Order of Merit in 2001 and 2002 and third the following two years.

"It's got to be something you want to put on to your CV; the Order of Merit is directly behind the majors. This time of year everything is about the Order of Merit, it gets you going again. I've been using it as motivation after the Ryder Cup to get out on the golf course and push on. If I'd been further back, I would have found it harder to come out and play such good golf."

Only two events remain to decide who will succeed Colin Montgomerie as the European No 1: the Mallorca Classic from 19 to 22 October and the Volvo Masters the following week at Valderrama.

Harrington had not planned to play in Mallorca but added: "Valderrama has not been the happiest hunting ground for me so anything I can get in Mallorca could push me up a bit."

The 35-year-old, who has had 29 second-place finishes, began the final round a shot behind Dredge, but wiped out that deficit with a birdie on the first.

Dredge went back in front with a birdie on the fifth after a superb long bunker shot from an awkward stance, but Harrington pegged him back again on the ninth. The key hole was the 11th, however, which brought a three-shot swing in the Irishman's favour.

Dredge found Strath bunker off the tee and was forced to play out backwards on his way to a double-bogey five, while Harrington holed from 10 feet for a birdie two.

That allowed Harrington to cruise to his second victory in the event in four years, and he also helped partner J P McManus to win the team competition for the second time as well.

"I hadn't won in Europe for two years, although I won twice in America last year, but it's great to come back and win," he added.

"You never want to go a year without a win. It's very special to win and I'm really happy the way I did it.

"I played great yesterday [a 68 at Carnoustie] and backed it up again today."

Casey, who overtook his Ryder Cup team-mate David Howell on the money list by winning the HSBC World Match Play at Wentworth last month, led by one shot after an opening 63 at Kingsbarns but struggled to rounds of 74 and 73 at St Andrews and Carnoustie.

"After a tough Friday and Saturday, to post a top-six finish is a good result," the 29-year-old said.

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