Padraig Harrington produced a Tiger-like performance at St Andrews that could give him the belief to achieve major glory.

The Dubliner's imperious five-shot win in the Dunhill Links Championship was arguably the most important of his career.

Up seven places to No 12 in the world, Harrington was in control of his game from round one and ground out a Woods-style victory with some brilliant tactical play in the closing round.

Ranked 19th in driving distance and 32nd in fairways hit, he was a telling 10th in greens in regulation and eighth in putting.

Patience was the key for Harrington as he sauntered up the 18th hole at the Home of Golf with a massive four shot lead.

His closing birdie made the margin five shots - the biggest winning margin of his professional career since his took his first tour title in the 1996 Spanish Open with four to spare.

Until Sunday it has been a lot harder for the Dubliner to get over the winning line.

Of his 16 professional wins, five of them have come in play-offs and another four by just one shot.

He has also lost three times in sudden death and finished second an incredible 29 times.

But this time it was a walk in the park for the Ryder Cup star and he now has a chance to go on and win the Order of Merit for the first time and take his game to the next level.

Winning the Order of Merit is the perfect taster for a major victory that Harrington firmly believes is within his grasp.

He said: "It's a big deal, a huge deal. This time of the year, everything is about the Order of Merit. It gets you going again and it has got to be something that you want to put on your CV, winning the Order of Merit."

Harrington has been searching for a low maintenance swing for more than five years and looks closer than ever to the finished product.

When the pressure was on during the final round, he pressed the accelerator at the right time to pull away from all his rivals.

A brave birdie at the ninth was followed by another at the par three 11th where joint leader Bradley Dredge made a double bogey proved decisive.

But Harrington then carved out six pars in a row before finishing with a classy birdie three.

From fifth in the Order of Merit, he has now jumped to second and cut the gap on Casey to just over €218,000.

As a result, he feels he must play the Mallorca Classic next week to give himself a better chance of becoming European No 1 for the first time.

He said: "I really didn't know how far I would be behind Paul. But to be honest, Valderrama has not been the happiest hunting ground for me.

"When I went there in 2002 I was probably 25,000 behind Retief Goosen. It was very close and both of us finished down the field.

"it's a tough golf course. It's a hard golf course to go into when you've got to perform. You know, you require a lot of patience on the course and it's hard to have patience sometimes when you're trying to force something out of a week.

"It is not a place where I have done too well in the past. I think my best performance ever there is fifth so this time round I have got to give myself a better chance of passing Paul and Mallorca is that.

"I will do well to finish in the top ten in Valderrama so anything I get in Mallorca that could push me on a little bit is good. It looks like I'll be there."

What pleased Harrington most about his win was the way he did it.

While in the past he has had to battle hard for victories, this time he could freewheel over the line, in complete control of everything.

He said: "I did it in style. This is the first time I could walk down 18 and enjoy it. It's very special. Myself and Bradley went out there and the two of us wanted to play well and move away from the field.

"I was thinking if we could shoot three or four under, the guys who were on nine under needed to shoot seven under. And I knew the pins were tucked and that it would be a hard ask and they wouldn't be able to do it.

"Up to that I wanted the two of us to push on on but my birdie to Bradley's double bogey made a difference to him. But I still felt I had to keep ahead of the others and it did help when I had a three shot lead with a couple to play. I could go left all the way home and play safe."

Harrington remained in fifth place in European Tour Career Earnings with €14,194,422 in the bank from just 11 seasons but still more than €7 million adrift of No 1 Colin Montgomerie.

But like Woods, he says it is only the Ws that count.

He beamed: "The wins are the important thing and they are all very special. I haven't had a win in Europe for two years and it is nice to come back here and win.

"I had a couple of wins in the States last year but it's been 15 months now so it is very special to win.

"And I am really happy with the way I did it. I played great yesterday and I backed it up in the final round.">

Harrington's professional wins (Margin)

2006 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship (by 5 shots)

2005 Honda Classic (Play-off), Barclays Classic (PGA Tour 2 shots), Irish PGA (Play-off)

2004 Linde German Masters -13 66-75-64-70 = 275 (3 shots), Irish PGA (1 shot)

2003 Omega Hong Kong Open -11 67-69-67-66 = 269 ( 1 shot)

2003 Deutsche Bank - SAP Open TPC (Playoff: Beat Thomas Bjorn with a par on first extra hole) -19 65-66-70-68 = 269

2002 Target World Challenge -20 (2 shots)

2002 BMW Asian Open -15 66-70-68-69 = 273 (1 shot)

2002 Dunhill Links Championship (Playoff: Beat Eduardo Romero with birdie on second extra hole) -19 66-66-68-69 = 269

2001 Volvo Masters -12 67-71-66 = 204 (1 shot)

2000 BBVA Open Turespana Masters de Madrid -21 67-64-66-70 = 267 (2 shots)

2000 Brazil Sao Paulo 500 years Open -14 69-68-65-68 = 270 (2 shots)

1998 Irish Professional Championship (Play-off)

1996 Spanish Open -16 70-64-67-71 = 272 (4 shots)