Harrington rediscovers mental edge in Honda win
March 02, 2015
By PGA TOUR Staff
- March 02, 2015
- Padraig Harrington also won The Honda Classic in 2005. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- As Padraig Harrington stood on the 17th tee in his Monday playoff at The Honda Classic against Daniel Berger, a nearby cart was making noise as it cleared out some trash cans. Then some fans near the green decided to move.
Those were two distractions he didn't need, especially since less than an hour earlier in regulation, his tee shot at 17 had found the water, costing him the lead and forcing him to scramble just to make the playoff.
Harrington kept backing away from his shot. At age 43 and not having won a PGA TOUR event in nearly 2,400 days, he was not about to be rushed.
As it turned out, he would not be denied either.
Harrington's tee shot finished inside 5 feet of the cup. When Berger -- a 21-year-old rookie making just his 12th TOUR start -- followed with a tee shot that landed in the water, Harrington's path to his first TOUR win since the 2008 PGA Championship was clear.
"I was never going to hit that shot until I was clear in my head, especially after messing it up in real time," Harrington said.
The difference in those two shots brought into focus the 43-year-old's long climb back into the winner's circle. After winning his third major in 2008, Harrington changed his swing, battled the putting yips, dealt with the mental challenges of falling from the top, and yet kept grinding away.
That first tee shot at 17 on Monday -- Harrington had a one-shot lead over Berger, who was done early after shooting a 64 -- was simple to explain. "If you ever want to see a lapse in the mental side, my routine got a little bit out of skew," Harrington said of the shot that resulted in a double bogey and forced him to make a 15-footer for birdie at the 18th to force a playoff
But an hour later, faced with the same shot and the tournament again on the line, Harrington delivered this time.
"Going first, I just couldn't afford to bail out and leave the door open," he said. "I knew I had to hit the shot. It was classic match play. You've got to hit the shot and put the pressure on him."
Now the pressure is off on Harrington. He doesn't have to worry about sponsor's invites for the next few years. He can plan a trip to the Masters next month. And he's got the monkey off his back.
His return trip to the winner's circle is complete.
Padraig Harrington holes clutch birdie putt on the 72nd hole at Honda
ALL WET: The Honda Classic’s final threesome all found water on PGA National’s water-lined closing holes. Harrington went on to win, but Ian Poulter and Patrick Reed both lost good chances to earn another PGA TOUR win.
Poulter held his first 54-hole lead on the PGA TOUR, but his chances came to an end when hit two shots in the water at No. 14 and made triple bogey. He hit five shots in the water in his final-round 74. He made birdie on the final two holes to finish third at 5-under 275, one shot out of the playoff between Harrington and Daniel Berger.
“It's a shame to hand tournaments away,” Poulter said. “You don't mind being beaten fair and square, … but I've handed one away this week and you know it's going to hurt because making triples and doubles just doesn't get it done, and it's a shame. I shouldn't do that.”
Reed was tied for the lead with Harrington at 7 under through 14 holes, but Reed hit his tee shot in the water at the par-3 15thand made bogey on the next two holes. His final-round 73 dropped him to T7 at 3-under 277 (67-67-70-73).
“I actually felt like I hit a pretty good iron shot on 15,” Reed said. “(It) just kind of ballooned on me. … But any time you feel like you didn't have your A Game and struggling a little bit and be able to finish inside the Top‑10 is always good.”
Reed arrives at this week’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship as the defending champion.
Harrington hit his tee shot at the par-3 17th into the water, but made birdie at the final hole of regulation to get into a playoff with Berger. Harrington returned to No. 17 for the playoff’s second hole and hit his tee shot to 5 feet to clinch the victory.
LEARNING EXPERIENCE: Daniel Berger grew up in nearby Jupiter and worked on the driving range at Dye Preserve in high school. The 21-year-old TOUR rookie nearly earned his first victory in his backyard. He finished second after hitting his tee shot on the second playoff hole, the par-3 17th, into the water.
Berger started the final round nine shots off the lead, but a closing 64 earned him a spot in a playoff with Padraig Harrington. Berger missed a 15-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole, then hit his tee shot on 17 into the water after Harrington had hit his to 3 feet.
“I might have rushed it a little bit,” Berger said of his fateful shot in the playoff. “If I had a second chance, I probably would have taken a little bit longer and just kind of composed myself, but it's one of those things that you learn. Like I said, next time I'll be better from it.”
Berger moved to 15th in the FedExCup with his fifth top-25 in his past six starts. He’s finished in the top 10 in three of his past four starts.
HEADED TO DORAL: Paul Casey’s second consecutive top-three finish earned him his first start at the Cadillac Championship in three years. The Englishman, who lost a playoff at last week’s Northern Trust Open, shot a final-round 68 at PGA National to finish third in The Honda Classic at 5-under 275 (69-70-68-68). He earned his Cadillac Championship berth by moving inside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
“I know how difficult this golf course is. I'm disappointed not to at least make one birdie out there this morning,” Casey said. “But I gave it my best shot and I'm really happy with the way I played this week.”
Casey’s last top-10 before this season was at the Frys.com Open in October 2011.
“I've given myself an opportunity the last couple weeks, and I feel good about that and I feel I've got better golf ahead of me coming up,” Casey said.
ODDS AND ENDS
Wales’ Jamie Donaldson is playing his first season as a PGA TOUR member. A runner-up finish at last year’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship helped propel him to his first PGA TOUR card. Donaldson will return to Doral in good form after finishing sixth at The Honda Classic. He shot a final-round 66, including birdies on 17 and 18, to finish at 4-under 276. ...
Jim Herman, who led after a first-round 65, finished a career-best seventh at 3-under 277 (65-72-71-69). It was Herman's third top-10 in 76 career PGA TOUR starts. Herman moved to south Florida in 2001 to play the Golden Bear Tour and lives in nearby Palm City. He was an assistant pro at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie before making it to the Web.com Tour.
Category Round 4 leader Weekly leader Strokes gained: tee-to-green Daniel Berger (5.37 strokes) Daniel Berger (2.95 strokes/round) Driving distance Sergio Garcia (314.0 yards) Patrick Rodgers (303.0 yards) Driving accuracy Luke Donald (14 of 14) Brian Harman (43 of 56) Greens in regulation Russell Knox (17 of 18) R. Allenby, P. Casey, C. Howell III, J. Overton, R. Palmer, I. Poulter (51 of 72) Strokes gained: putting Lee Westwood (4.87 strokes) Brooks Koepka (2.63 strokes/round) Putts per round M. Flores, B. Koepka (24) Brooks Koepka (25.75) Total birdies D. Berger, B. Harman (7) P. Harrington, R. Sabbatini (18)