Harrington beats Woods in Japan

Brave Padraig Harrington produced a miracle shot to deny Tiger Woods a hat-trick of wins in the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament in Japan.

The Dubliner erased a three-shot deficit with three birdies over the last six holes to shoot a three under par 67 and tie with Woods on nine under.

In the play-off, he then produced an incredible winning birdie at the second extra hole to deny to the world No 1 his third straight victory in the event.

Harrington’s amazing birdie on the par-five 18th at Phoenix Country Club came after he had threaded a rescue wood through the fork of a tree and then knocked his third shot stone dead.

The Dubliner grabbed a cheque for €265,000 for his 17th career win - a victory that could see him regain his place in the world’s top 10 today.

Harrington also joined an elite group of just six players who have beaten Woods when the world number one has held the lead going into the final round.

Not only that - he also became just the second player to beat Woods in the play-off by with the American losing just one in 15 previous sudden-death shoot outs to Billy Mayfair at the 1998 Nissan Open.

Reflecting on his amazing tree shot, Harrington beamed: "When you come up against Tiger you've got to take whatever opportunities are presented.

"I saw it as a great chance of hitting a spectacular shot to win the playoff and it came off. I definitely got lucky but sometimes fortune favours the brave."

Woods and Harrington were tied for the lead going into the final round of the €1.32 million event on six under par, just two shots clear of Japan’s Shingo Katayama.

But it soon looked as though Woods would cruise to his 10th strokeplay win of the season when he picked up three birdies and just one bogey in the first five holes to lead by one from Katayama.

Harrington was three behind on five under par after a bogey at the fourth but the event took a major turning point at the eighth, where Katayama double bogeyed to leave Woods three ahead of his two rivals.

Harrington was quick to notice that Woods suddenly became defensive in cold, windy conditions and was caught out in the end as the Dubliner slowly battled his way back.

The first turning point came at the 12th, where Harrington holed a vital 12 footer for par on to remain three behind Woods on six under.

But the key was the driveable 332-yard 13th, where Woods laid up and Harrington blasted his tee shot over the trees into rough left of the green, pitching to four feet for a birdie that cut the gap to just two shots.

Then at the 16th, Harrington fired a wedge to 15 feet and drained the putt before Woods three putted from 40 feet, lipping out with a four footer for par.

The two shot swing left them tied at the top on eight under and Harrington had a chance to take the sole lead at the 17th, but never even came close to the hole from 10 feet.

Woods reached a greenside bunker with his second shot at the 18th and splashed out to three feet for an easy birdie, but Harrington also made birdie, sinking a testing five-footer under intense pressure.

Harrington explained: "I was three behind after eight holes and Shingo made a double to drop back to leave Tiger with a three shot lead and I could see that he went to pretty defensive mode from there.

"I knew that I could make up the three shots from there if he kept defending as he did right the way through.

"He laid up on the 13th, the par four which I tried to drive. And I ended up making a very simple birdie.

"Then he laid up on the par four 16th and hit a reasonable iron shot but was a long way away from the hole and three putted.”

In the play-off at the 560-yard 18th, both men made pressure putts for birdie with Harrington's 10-footer catching the side door and dropping before Woods calmly stroked his ball home from seven feet.

They returned to play the 18th again and this time Harrington got lucky after his poor drive ended behind a stunted pine.

He tried to thread his ball between a Y-shaped gap the two trunks, and though his ball caught a part of the tree, it still went forward 120 yards, stopping in a good lie in the rough.

He then landed his third shot beyond the hole, using the slope to bring the ball back to inside two feet for birdie. When Woods missed a 12-footer, it was all over.

Explaining his ‘miracle’ shot Harrington said: "It clipped the tree coming out and went up in the air.

"It looked as though somebody had pulled a stake out of the ground and pulled up the ground so I was at the bottom of a little bit of a mound of dirt.

"It meant that I had to hit it a bit clean and it came out a little bit lower than I wanted to. Such is life. I made the most of my break after that by hitting it in stone dead.”

Harrington was delighted to end Woods eight-year unbeaten run in playoffs, adding: "The great thing about stats is that they've got to fall sometimes. Sooner or later a stat like that is going to break so just be there to be the one to break it."

Woods blamed his three-putt on the 16th for his loss, explained: "I had my opportunities today. I had a two-shot lead with three to go and missed a short one there at 16.

"If I made that putt it forced Paddy (Harrington) to have to birdie one of the last two holes to get into a playoff. It was a poor putt. It probably cost me the tournament."

Japan's Keiichiro Fukabori crept under the radar to claim third on eight under after the day's best round of 64 had given him the clubhouse lead until Woods and Harrington birdied 18.

Britain's Justin Rose shot a fine 66 to finish tied for fourth on six under with Japan's Shingo Katayama, who closed with a 68.