Irish happy as Els wins

 

PADRAIG HARRINGTON produced a grandstand finish at Hope Island yesterday to haul himself into 27th place in the Johnnie Walker Classic, increasing his Ryder Cup points with birdies at the last two holes.

And even a frustrating double-bogey could not dampen Darren Clarke's day as an otherwise accomplished final round saw him move up a place on the table from fourth to third.

A delighted Harrington bounced back from two bogeys which threatened to cut his winnings on the first event of the European Tour season to shoot a one-under-par 71 and finish level-par for the tournament, 10 strokes behind the winner, Ernie Els.

Els captured his third European Tour title with a closing 69 to be 10-under-par, one shot ahead of New Zealand's Michael Long, who a called penalty on himself on the 15th green when his ball moved at address, and local favourite Peter Lonard.

Nick Faldo and Fred Couples shared fourth place with Australian Anthony Painter, four shots behind Els.

Els praised Long for his honesty. "Gentlemen play this game. In tennis when you hit it close to the lines it's the hands of the linesmen or umpire, but in golf we take it on ourselves."

Long, chasing easily the biggest win of his career, stated: "I don't think anybody saw it but me. I'm trying not to think what it cost me. It was not my money to start with. If I had said nothing and gone on to win it would have been a hollow victory."

Harrington's finale brought him £6,615 and he moved up the Ryder Cup table to 18th place.

While Harrington was delighted with his birdie finish - two putts from 20 feet on the long 17th and a curving 15-footer on the last - Clarke tempered his enthusiasm by remembering the 15th. Here he hit through the green to double-bogey, and he had to settle for a final round of 72 to be three-over-par for the event in 45th place.

Nonetheless, Clarke's 3,780 points enabled him to relegate the absent Costantino Rocca on the Cup table. "I played well all day and the 15th was a great shame," said Clarke.

"My four-iron approach just took off. It never left the flag but then went on and on and I had no shot from behind the green. Taking the four rounds into consideration, I have to be happy with the week and it was good to get back on course after Saturday when I played some rubbish at times, I only hit two bad shots all day."

"I have to be delighted at that," said Harrington. "To be honest, I was delighted the moment I made the cut. It was a very encouraging start to the season."