Harrington win gets 'monkey off my back'

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The Independent Online

Padraig Harrington won for the first time in more than two years yesterday – a comfortable three-stroke victory at the Iskandar Johor Open in Malaysia.

The Irishman, whose last tournament success came at the 2008 US PGA Championship, started the day with a five-shot lead and victory was never in doubt as he closed with a three-under-par 69, at the Horizon Hills Golf and Country Club.

South Korean Noh Seung-yul finished strongly with a superb seven-under 65 to claim second place while Chinese Tapiei's Lin Wen-tang took third following a 68.

Harrington, who walked away with the US $198,125 (£123,892) winner's cheque, had played whilst in pain all day on Saturday after tweaking a muscle in his neck. He showed no ill-effects from the injury yesterday and started with aplomb by reeling off three straight birdies from the second.

The 39-year-old bogeyed the fifth but added further gains on the 11th, 13th and 14th holes and, though he dropped two shots in his last three holes, it mattered not as he comfortably sealed victory on his debut at the Asian Tour event.

"Two years is a long time, especially when you're reminded most weeks you play," said Harrington. "It's nice and very important for me to win. It's somewhat a monkey off your back.

"Winning is a habit. Every time you win, it is important but when you haven't won for a while it does add a bit more emphasis to it. It makes it all the more memorable."

Fresh from helping Europe to Ryder Cup success earlier this month, Harrington had been in fine form throughout the tournament and held at least a share of the lead for the first three rounds.

"There's no doubt that it was my week to win," added the three-time major winner. "If you had followed me for the four days, I don't think anyone would have questioned that my name was written on the trophy before the tournament started.

"I got the breaks all the way through. I hit some good shots and had a few breaks. Luck of the Irish? I'll accept that."

Last year's champion KJ Choi shot a 68 to claim a share of eighth while Colin Montgomerie finished tied 11th after closing with a 69. The Scot was playing in his second tournament since leading Europe to Ryder Cup success.

Meanwhile, Richard Green surged up the leaderboard to win the Portugal Masters yesterday with a seven-under 65, after a late collapse from overnight leader Pablo Martin.

Green started the round seven shots behind Martin but birdied four of the first five holes at the Oceanico Victoria Club. He was at nine-under after 15 but two late bogeys meant he had to spend an anxious hour in the clubhouse to see whether his 18-under total of 270 would be enough.

"Coming from seven behind I knew I had to play the best round of golf I probably could and I had a 64 in mind," Green said. "And when I got to nine-under for the day and 20-under and I thought I was in with a chance. But then I had a couple of bogeys which I thought left me short. But in the end a 65 was good enough and a win is a win."

Martin, who held a three-shot lead going into the final round, stayed one stoke ahead by making a 15-foot birdie putt on the 12th. But he bogeyed three of the next four holes, before managing a birdie on the 17th. He then drove into the water on the final hole to finish with a double bogey for a 75, putting him in a tie for sixth place.

Ryder Cup player Francesco Molinari, of Italy, came from even further back to finish in a four-way tie for second after a 10-under 62. Molinari, Robert Karlsson of Sweden (67), Joost Luiten of the Netherlands (69) and Gonzalo Fernandez Castano of Spain (68) were all two shots behind Green.

It was the second straight year Martin wasted a chance for victory in the last round of the Portugal Masters. Last year, he partnered the eventual winner Lee Westwood in the final round but shot a five-over 77.