Harrington clinches Hong Kong Open with storming finish

 

Padraig Harrington clinched a nail-biting one-shot victory at the Hong Kong Open with two birdies in the last two holes today.

The world number 10 drew level with leader Hennie Otto of South Africa at the penultimate hole before snatching victory with a 20-foot putt at the last in the opening leg of the 2004 European Tour season.

"I got very aggressive at the 16th when I realised Otto was in front by one stroke. It was all or nothing at that stage," said Harrington, who finished with a four-under-par 66 and an 11-under-par total of 269. He won $113,000.

Harrington became the first person to win successive opening events on the European Tour after winning the BMW Asian Open in Taiwan last year.

"A lot of people expected me to win. I'm absolutely thrilled to do just that," said the Irishman, who began the day one shot behind leader Christopher Hanell of Sweden.

Harrington collected three birdies on the front nine to go 10 under but at the par four 10th hole he lost his ball in the woods after a wayward tee shot. Penalised one shot, he recovered well to limit the damage to a bogey.

Otto, meanwhile, made a late charge, birdieing three of the last four holes to nose ahead before Harrington's remarkable finish.

Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn, Chris Gane of England and last year's winner, Freddie Jacobson, were tied for third on 273. One shot further behind in a tie for seventh was South Africa's James Kingston, Hanell and Thai Prayad Marksaeng, the best-finishing Asian in this penultimate leg of the Asian PGA Tour.

Jose Maria Olazabal, a winner here in 2001, shot 66 to finish on a five-under 275 and tied for 10th. Nick Faldo was in joint 15th.

China's Zhang Lian-wei, in second place on the Asian PGA Tour order of merit race, ended on 280 after shooting 69 on Sunday. He finished tied in 35th place.

Zhang trails India's Arjun Atwal in Asia. The winner will be decided at this week's Volvo Masters Asia in Bangkok and will earn an automatic berth for next year's British Open.

Reuters