He didn’t know it at the time, but Padraig Harrington had a seven-footer on his 54th hole to force a play-off at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic but would ultimately come up inches short at TPC Sugarloaf.
The 50-year-old produced a sensational eight-under 64 in his final round in Duluth, Georgia, which included five straight birdies in a back nine of just 30 strokes, to weave his way through the field and to the top of the leaderboard, setting the clubhouse target at 10-under-par.
But that birdie miss on 18 would prove to be costly as he was forced to watch Steve Flesch card a 65 in his closing round to pip him to top spot by one stroke at 11-under-par and claim his second PGA Tour Champions title, both of which have come in this event.
Harrington has now finished second in two of his four starts on the senior circuit this season, and while his previous runner-up finish was to be the best of the rest behind runaway six-shot winner Steven Alker at the Rapiscan Systems Classic, this one will hurt given the position he put himself in.
The former European Ryder Cup captain surged through the field on Sunday, taking advantage of the par-fives on the front nine, the fourth and sixth, and then adding another birdie at the par-three eighth, but his only bogey of the day at the par-four ninth would also prove crucial.
That preceded a phenomenal run after the turn, Harrington stringing together five straight birdies to haul himself towards the top of the leaderboard, and he would add one more birdie at the par-four 17th to round off his scoring, although it could have been even better had the putt dropped at the last.
Instead, he was forced to bide his time on the driving range and watch as Flesch ran off five straight birdies on the front nine and, although he would bogey the last two holes before the turn, four more birdies on his way back to the clubhouse – including a 12-footer at the par-four 17th – led to a seven-under 65 that would top Harrington by one.
It would also hold off overnight leader David Toms by one, too, the American birdieing three of his opening four holes but then stumbling with a bogey at the seventh. Although he righted the ship with a birdie at the par-five 10th, two putts that missed from six-feet for birdie at 13 and then par at 14 were key.
Going down the 18th needing a birdie to force a play-off, Toms laid up on the par-five and couldn’t make up-and-down from 103 yards to force extra holes, his 70 meaning he would finish in a share for second with Harrington and Fred Couples, who closed with a 66.
“This is a little bit of redemption,” smiled Flesch. “I played great last year. Kind of screwed up South Dakota, got beat in a couple others, but I played great last year.
“Really wasn’t playing that great this year, not off to a good start, but I just hung in there today because I did everything I could to try and make it as hard as possible the first two days for myself. Proud of the way I hung in there.
“Got a lot of encouraging support, friends and family at home, so today was a lot of redemption for a lot of people.”
Meanwhile, Darren Clarke rounded off his week in excellent style by matching Harrington’s 64 thanks to an eagle and six birdies, moving him up to four-under-par and into a share of 14th, and he will wonder what could have been were it not for a dreadful seven-over 79 in his opening round.
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