Pádraig Harrington came up short in a battle with Steve Stricker yet again as he was beaten at the first playoff hole in the Kitchenaid Senior PGA Championship.
In the battle between the 2021 Ryder Cup captains Harrington was left tasting defeat to his nemesis for the second time in three weeks after Stricker had already held him off to claim the Regions Tradition and now walks away with his second senior major of the season.
Harrington forced a playoff thanks to a birdie on the 72nd hole for a 70 after Stricker had shot a three-under 69 to hit -18.
Going into the day the Dubliner held a one shot lead over Stricker but having led by five at one stage during round three and passing up a chance for a 54-hole scoring record, he feels he left the door open to be caught.
“Probably yesterday was the day I played great yesterday. I created so many chances. I left a few out there. Today, it’s always going to be a tough day on the final day. That’s what playing in the last round of a tournament is in contention. Slight things. The wind changed on me on 8 and I made bogey. Hit a bad drive on 12, made bogey,” said Harrington.
“Then I look back to the two shots I look back on that with a bit of regret is how I played my second shot safe on 14. Pitched on the green and I expected it just to be in the fairway just right, which would have left a very easy chip. And it ran through into the rough. That’s the one that I’ll look back on and go, you know, I shouldn’t have bailed out. Maybe I shouldn’t have bailed out there. That’s — but I thought I was fine. I thought I would have had a reasonable eagle chance from there.
“Obviously then hit a lovely shot on 17. I don’t know if the pin was playable, but it was tough being first up. But that’s the nature of the game sometimes. Yeah, that will be where, those two holes really are the ones I’ll look back on.
“Obviously when we came back out to the playoff the wind had changed and it was, I just didn’t have a nice feeling about hitting it up the left over those bunkers. I let it go on the wind. Could have been worse, the lie. Actually in hindsight it would have been better if it was worse, because I would have dropped it in the first place. But the lie wasn’t so bad. I was trying to get it down the right-hand side. I could have gone out left. But I thought I could play a great shot down the right. And I just knifed it. I just didn’t get down to it. The ball was below my feet. Fat would have been better than thin as it turned out. But there you go, these things happen.”
Both Harrington and Stricker shared the lead at the turn before a birdie at 11 for Stricker saw him edge his nose in front and after both players dropped shots at 12, the American struck a hammer blow by chipping in on the par-3 13th before Harrington missed his birdie putt.
The gap was reduced to a shot again with a Harrington birdie on 15. Both players bogeyed 17 before Harrington birdied 18 to force a playoff.
Disaster struck for the three-time major champion who drove off the 18th (73rd) into the penalty area and having decided to play from the deep grass he hit deeper into the hazard before dropping out.
Stricker made the green in three leaving Harrington with a must make 15-foot par putt to stay alive but it missed.
“You know, right now I’m disappointed. You always look at final round and you go, if I knew then what I know now. And that’s experience. I think, yeah, I think, what, 18-under made the playoff. Yeah, I should have done that. So you look back and you have to be there — you know, you need to be in contention often to see those situations. Sometimes you over read things.
“The other would be pretty straightforward things I’ve been saying. Look, like when you see me hit a shot like that fourth shot into 18, sometimes when my back’s to the wall I really can focus. Sometimes when I, when I’m too, not casual, but when the shots are, when the shot doesn’t take my interest, like yesterday where I took the double bogey on 16, yeah. So I see things like that and that’s, I know there’s quite a bit to ’em where I can improve. So I’m not going to walk away from this and — I’ll actually go, Well, I left several shots out there. I can do this, do that.
“I will have to say, like Steve is probably the toughest guy you could ever play on a Sunday. He has to have the best wedge game in the world. Like he’s a fabulous putter, he’s a fabulous chipper, but his wedge play like at the first 14 holes was just spectacular. 15 holes. Like, really, like did he ever hit it outside — like he was getting, it was getting to the stage where it looked like he would hole a wedge. I know he did this week. But it was very impressive.”
Darren Clarke finished fifth on nine-under-par.