tampabay.com

Irishman earns first PGA title

By wire services
Published March 14, 2005


PALM BEACH GARDENS - The short putt went to the right in the fading light - just the break Padraig Harrington needed.

The Irishman won the Honda Classic for his first PGA Tour title when Vijay Singh missed a 21/2-foot putt to bogey the second playoff hole.

"I thought it was a gimme," Harrington said.

"I shouldn't have missed," Singh said.

If Harrington was lucky, he was also due - he has been a runnerup 26 times in worldwide events. And he earned the victory Sunday by shooting 9-under-par 63 for 274 to erase a seven-shot deficit.

Ranked eighth in the world, Harrington is believed to be the first player from the Republic of Ireland to win a tour event.

Joe Ogilvie shot 68 and also made the playoff, but was eliminated when he bogeyed the first extra hole, missing the fairway and needing four shots to reach the green.

The par-4 No. 18 was used for both playoff holes, and Harrington scrambled to get up-and-down for par each time. Singh, meanwhile, uncharacteristically failed on the verge of victory. After shooting 64 to make the playoff, he missed a 15-foot birdie try on the first playoff hole that would have given him the win. After Harrington made a 4-foot putt to par the second extra hole, Singh pushed his par try and the ball rimmed out.

Geoff Ogilvy and Brett Wetterich led by one Saturday. Both shot 73-277.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Ireland's Des Smyth won his first senior title, closing with 4-under 68 for a one-stroke victory over D.A. Weibring and Mark McNulty in the SBC Classic in Santa Clarita, Calif. Smyth finished with a 5-under 211 total but couldn't celebrate until McNulty missed a 20-foot putt on the final hole. McNulty shot 74, and Weibring had 72. Smyth broke free on the back nine on a day that saw five players - Smyth, McNulty, Weibring, Craig Stadler and Keith Fergus, the second-round leader by one - hold a share of the lead.

EUROPEAN PGA/ASIAN TOUR: Ernie Els won his second straight tournament in the Middle East, rallying to take the Qatar Masters in Doha by one shot after shooting 7-under 65. The South African, who finished with 12-under 276, had seven birdies to come back from a five-stroke deficit and edge Henrik Stenson of Sweden at the Doha Golf Course. Stenson shot 71. Els also won the Dubai Desert Classic March 6, when he eagled the last hole for the victory. He became the first player on the European PGA Tour to win in consecutive weeks since Vijay Singh took the Malaysian Open and Singapore Masters in 2001. Els birdied the par-5 first hole, then bogeyed the third. He birdied the next three holes and Nos. 10 and 12 to wipe out Stenson's two-shot overnight lead. When Stenson double-bogeyed the 14th, Els birdied No. 16 to lead by two. He birdied No. 18, then sat in the clubhouse and watched his opponents falter.

FUTURES TOUR: Former University of Florida golfer Aimee Cho finished in a three-way tie for third at 68-71-77- 216 in the $65,000 Lakeland Futures Classic. The 21-year-old native of Seoul, Korea, who spent two seasons at UF, led the first two rounds but finished five shots behind winner Jin Young Pak of Kang Leoung, Korea (73-69-69). Pak has spent the last five months practicing at the Geoge Beardsley Golf School at Cheval Golf & Country Club in Tampa. Kelly Lagedrost of Brooksville and Jenny Gleason of Clearwater shot 75-73-73-221 to finish tied for 31st and earn $381 each. Cho won $3,909.