Padraig Harrington battled his way through the pain barrier to record his best European Tour result in two-years with a gutsy ninth-place finish at the ASI Scottish Open.
Harrington tweaked his neck ahead of teeing-off but then went out to post a best round of his week, a four-under 67 that included a 16th hole eagle on the Renaissance course to the east of Edinburgh.
It was a layout that crowned England’s Aaron Rai as its latest champion after he came through a playoff to beat Tommy Fleetwood to the Rolex Series title.
Rai found the bottom of the cup for his par four at the 18th in the sudden-death decider before Fleetwood missed his chance to half from no more than three feet away.
Harrington’s effort meanwhile in only his eighth event this year – five on the European Tour and three at start of the year on the PGA Tour – was a best finish either side of ‘The Pond’ in three days short of two years ago when he produced a T7th at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Europe’s Ryder Cup captain had bravely fought his way into the weekend rounds making the one-under par cut right on the mark and then on Saturday he emerged from a day of strong winds and driving rain to be one of just 17 players among the remaining 66 to break par in shooting a 69.
And despite the revelation post his final round of badly tweaking his neck, Harrington went out to bogey the first but then birdied three and four, and while he dropped a shot at the eighth, he then superbly birdied the 10th for a third day running.
Harrington then birdied 14 ahead of landing a 271-yard 4-iron shot to just three feet at the par-5 16th for the second eagle ‘3’ of his week ahead of a pair of closing pars.
“I was like the walking wounded out there with my caddie saying to me that if I was a horse, I’d have to hope that I would be put out to pasture,” said Harrington smiling.
“So, pretty happy with my round though I tweaked my neck before I went, and I struggled to hit the golf ball all day.
“I really struggled with my alignment as I could not look-up properly so that put me off most of the day but I stuck in there and managed my way around the golf course, and I putted quite well.
“I was really happy I putted well as that’s the best I’ve putted for a few good years and there were some real positive good signs in my putting, so very happy with that.
“I would have liked to be injury free and give it a good run but I probably got the most out of my round as I should have.
“It was such a minor little tweak and I get those with my neck. I thought I had warmed-up and I just warmed-up too quickly and it was one of those that really affected my ability to look up.
“There was pain but that didn’t bother me as it was my ability when standing over the ball and then to look-up as it affected my alignment. I had to move my whole body other than move my head.
“It freaked me out big-time all day. Like I struggled with a lot of shots, so there was quite a bit of perseverance in sticking in there and, no doubt, holing a couple of putts at the right time was comforting.
“I holed some hard putts at the right time and they really did keep the round going and a good day on the greens saved us.”
Harrington had earlier eagled the par-5 third hole on day two of the Scottish event but then was surprised to see his ball lying so close to the flag at 16 on day four.
“I hit a nice drive down the middle and the ball must have hit a soft spot even though the hole was playing downwind and downhill, as it left me a long way back for my second,” he said.
“Then as we were walking down over the hill and down to the green, there were three balls down there and we weren’t sure which was which but then I got down there and my ball was just three-feet from the flag, so it must have had a good chance of going in.
“Overall, my game showed some very nice signs throughout the week, both driving-wise and putting wise, so I still need to play more but I am not sure where that is going to be going forward
“So, there was lots of good stuff out over the four days.”
For the effort, Harrington collected a cool €107,866 in just his second start in some six months on Tour.
Full scoring HERE