As far as seasonal reappearances go after injury, Padraig Harrington has plenty of reasons to smile after coming through four rounds at the Maybank Championship unscathed in Kuala Lumpur.
On his first outing since a broken wrist put paid to his playing in December, the Dubliner saved his best round of the week until last in firing a three-under par 69 to ensure lunch tasted sweet in the Saujana clubhouse.
For the second day running, the three-time Major winner managed to find six birdies across the tricky Malaysian layout and while there were still bogeys to contend with, his five-under par tournament total was good enough for a share of 30th spot after a worthwhile venture east.
Harrington heads home with a cool cheque worth €21,506 for the effort but more importantly, the confidence in his wrist to kick his season into gear from here.
Happy with my performance this week. Wrist held up well but thumb was too stressed to do much practice.I have a week off to do some rehab before @valerotxopen @EuropeanTour @maybankchampion @WilsonGolf @FootJoy @Titleist @mutualofomaha @CluneGC @ISPSHanda @dunnesstores @ORRECO1
— Padraig Harrington (@padraig_h) March 24, 2019
At the top there was joy for Scott Hend who claimed his third European Tour title in dramatic fashion in Kuala Lumpur as he beat Nacho Elvira on the first play-off hole at the weather affected Maybank Championship.
The 45-year-old Australian began the fourth round three shots behind overnight leader Elvira of Spain but went in front courtesy of five birdies on the front nine and remained ahead by one stroke as the final group arrived at the 18th tee.
But there was late drama as the heavens opened over Suajana Golf and Country Club, with the first clap of thunder heard as Elvira made his approach shot into the 18th green. When play was suspended at 2.50 pm local time, Elvira was left with a 30 foot putt to keep his hopes alive, and one hour and forty minutes later he coolly drained his birdie effort to join Hend on 15-under par and force a play-off.
Hend got a lucky break when his tee shot at the first extra hole hit the base of a tree and landed on the fairway, while Elvira’s ball went straight into a fairway bunker. The Australian hit another tree with his second shot but holed his birdie putt from three feet to clinch the title and banish memories of previous play-off defeats at the Omega European Masters in both 2016 and 2017.
The victory is Hend’s first on the European Tour since the 2016 True Thailand Classic Presented by Chang and takes him into the top ten of the 2019 Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex. It’s also a tenth win on the Asian Tour, and his first since he topped the Order of Merit in 2016.
“I had to get off to a fast start as I was three shots behind,” reflected Hend. “That’s all there was to it. I was fortunate enough to turn in five under and on the back nine I shot event par. Can’t ask for much more on a Sunday when the golf course is playing quite tricky.
“I’m a grinder and a fighter. So is my caddie Tony. We both have the same mental attitude. It doesn’t matter how old we are, we work hard at what we do. Just takes a bit of luck to win. Obviously I had a bit of luck on the play-off hole. If you don’t have any luck you won’t win.
“What a putt by Nacho. If I was to go out there and hit that putt you would say you would hole it one in ten times. The spirit we played in today was great too. He’s such a nice guy. We were both egging each other on to play well. That’s the way we want to play golf.”
Elvira’s runner-up finish was his second in as many starts after he ended the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in a tie for second in his last outing.
“I tried to give it all on the play-off hole,” he said. “I just missed my driver a little bit and gave myself a little chance to make birdie, but I’m happy.
“It was thunder in a bad moment, but the gods did give me one back with that putt. I think I played great all week, solid, consistent, I’m very happy with that. I’m happy that my game has finally showed a little bit of consistency.
“Lifting trophies is the point, that’s what we try to do every week. Hopefully it works out soon.”
Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand was another two shots back in third place after mixing five birdies with two bogeys in his closing round of 69, with American Johannes Veerman in fourth at 12-under par.
Oliver Fisher of England and Germany’s Max Kieffer were a further shot back on 11-under par, while four-time Major Champion Ernie Els secured his 300th career top ten finish after closing with a round of 71 to sit amongst a group of six players in a tie for seventh at 10-under par.
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