Padraig Harrington beamed from ear-to-ear as Tiger Woods helped into the green and navy check jacket awarded to the winner of the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament.

It wasn't quite the green jacket award to the Masters champion at Augusta but Harrington still allowed himself to dream for moment or two.

Turning the world No1, the new world No 8 and Europe's top player could not resist the temptation to crack a joke at Tiger's expense.

Harrington explained: "I did say to him. 'Hey Tiger, the jacket is green and navy and I would like it to be all green at some stage.' He had a little chuckle about that. And it would be okay for him because that would meant that he would be the defending Masters champion. He wouldn't be complaining."

For Woods to slip the green jacket of Masters champion onto Harrington's shoulders, we would have to wait until 2008.

But having just gone eye to eye with the Tiger for the second time in his career and come out on top, Harrington now looks more than capable of winning a Major in 2007.

His 17th professional victory - and his first in Japan - must go down as one of the most important of his career in terms on who finished second.

Woods had lost just one in 15 official play-offs since he turned professional in 1996 and held a mind boggling record of winning 38 of of the 41 events he had led or co-led going into the final round.

And while Harrington was his usual modest self, playing down the fact that he had just beaten Woods at the second sudden-death hole, he knows better than anyone that he is close to the Holy Grail.

What pleased him most about a win that saw him jump three spots in the latest world ranking to No 8 and regain his place in the world's Top 10 after a 15 month absence, was not his stunning rescue wood through the boughs of a tree but his patience.

Mentally, Harrington is arguably the strongest player in the game next to Woods and in Majors it is often the man with the strongest will rather than the strongest game who comes out on top.

He explained: "Beating Tiger in a play-off is satisfying and adds to the prestige of the win but I've got to say I take more confidence out of reading the situation very well in the last round and applying myself to the situation very well.

"He had it for the winning. But went into a very defensive mode and just got caught at the end. It was hard for him to get out of it. He holed a few putts early on and was very confident.

"He played much better in the final round than he did on Saturday when he shot 72. But he started to play conservatively when he got three in front.

"He laid up on the driveable 13th and I went for it. On the 16th you can hit it over the bunker and have a sand wedge for your second. I hit it in the rough but made birdie. He laid up, had a nine iron for his second but finished a long way from the hole and three-putted.

"He laid up on two par fours. If he was behind he wouldn't lay up. As I turned out I made birdies on them and he three putted one of them for a bogey. This golf course just lent itself to the person chasing rather than the person in the lead.

"I am really happy about beating Tiger and it adds to the prestige of the win but I take the satisfaction from reading the situation. If it was anybody else and I would be just as happy to do it.

"I could see how things were developing during the round and when Shingo made a double bogey on the eighth hole that it really changed Tiger's mindset from then on. He had holed a few putts early on so he was really exceptionally confident about his own game.

"But once Shingo made a double bogey and gave him a three shot lead I could see an opportunity that I could make the birdies and come back into it."

Harrington was paired with Woods for the last two rounds and when asked about being paired with the 12 time major winner on Friday night he revealed that the draw as an opportunity to get used teeing it up with the man they all have to beat in the four Majors.

He said: "It doesn't necessarily get my juices flowing, but I'm happy for the opportunity, because you've got to play with Tiger if you're going to win the majors basically.

"And the more you play with him, the more familiar you get, the easier it is to play with him, so I always see it as an opportunity."

Harrington has teed it up with Woods in majors before, notably at Bethpage Black on Long Island in 2002, when they went out together in the third round.

A second round 68 left the Dubliner just three shots behind Woods in second place and he admitted before their Saturday pairing that the intimidation factor could have a negative effect.

At the time Harrington said: "He's a very intimidating force to be paired up with in a major. He's a phenomenal player and it can certainly distract anybody who's playing with him.

"The difficulty is managing my own game so I'm not distracted. But over the years, looking at guys who have been paired up with Tiger on Saturdays and Sundays of major tournaments, it tends to have a negative effect.

"I've seen many of my friends in the game who have shot 77, 78 when they're paired with Tiger, so it's obviously very difficult."

In the end Woods shot 70 to Harrington's 73 and went on to take the title and his second Major of that season.

Harrington slipped with eighth place in the end and a month later missed out on a play-off for the Open at Muirfield by just one stroke.

Since then, the closest the Dubliner has come to winning a Major was this season when he finished fifth in the US Open at Winged Foot.

He bogeyed the last three holes to finish just two shots behind surprise winner Geoff Ogilvy but is now ranked two places ahead of the Australian in the world rankings.

While Sergio Garcia is regarded by many as the best player in the world without a Major to his name, Harrington must surely have inherited that tag after Sunday's performance in southeast Japan.

Of the seven players ranked ahead of him in the latest world rankings, only world No 4 Adam Scott has yet to win a Major.

Scott is only 26, however and has time on his side.

At 35, Harrington continues to improve and his dogged end of season performances prove that he has the mental strength to become Ireland's first Major winner since Fred Daly triumphed at Hoylake in 1947.

His victory in the Dunhill Links championship at St Andrews in October revived his chances of winning the Order of Merit and he pulled it off against all the odds with am amazing runner-up finish in the Volvo Masters at Valderrama.

He has now won in nine different countries on three continents but he admitted that his latest triumph - his second of the year - was a special one.

Speaking moments after Woods had helped him to the winner's blazer, he said: "This is my first time winning in Japan and I am really proud to have done that. I have won in Europe, North America, South America, I have won in some of the Asian countries but never in Japan before.

"So I really pleased to add this one to my record. I really enjoyed the fans this week. They were all great. They were really knowledgeable, exceptionally good in terms of their support."

Harrington will have a week off in Dublin this week before heading to South Africa for the invitational Nedbank Challenge at Sun City next week.

He will then head straight to the Sandy Lane Resort in Barbados where he will join forces with Paul McGinley for the World Cup before finishing off his season in the Woods' Target World Challenge in California.

Woods will be looking for revenge in that one but after Sunday's dramatic play-off win, Harrington will not be intimidated.

Latest World rankings
(Ranking in brackets indicates position at 31st December 2005)

1 (1) Tiger Woods USA 21.65
2 (7) Jim Furyk USA 8.95
3 (3) Phil Mickelson USA 7.80
4 (9) Adam Scott Aus 7.58
5 (4) Retief Goosen SAf 6.26
6 (2) Vijay Singh Fij 6.23
7 (5) Ernie Els SAf 5.89
8 (17) Padraig Harrington Ire 5.81
9 (13) Luke Donald Eng 5.79
10 (50) Geoff Ogilvy Aus 5.69
11 (6) Sergio Garcia Spn 5.57
12 (32) Henrik Stenson Swe 4.63
13 (62) Trevor Immelman SAf 4.49
14 (11) David Howell Eng 4.28
15 (52) Paul Casey Eng 4.25
16 (15) David Toms USA 4.15
17 (19) Davis Love-III USA 4.11
18 (8) Colin Montgomerie Sco 3.99
19 (26) Jose M Olazabal Spn 3.81
20 (10) Chris DiMarco USA 3.75

Other Irish
33 (18) Darren Clarke NIr 3.03
60 (21) Paul McGinley Ire 2.19
122 (56) Graeme McDowell NIr 1.34