Harrington zoned out

Padraig Harrington surrendered his Order of Merit crown with a whimper after being blown out of the zone in a bizarre rules row at Valderrama.

England’s Justin Rose took the Harry Vardon Trophy and then captured the Volvo Masters with a birdie at the second hole of a sudden death play-off with Simon Dyson and Dane Soren Kjeldsen.

And Harrington was livid with himself after a closing 72 left him two strokes outside the sudden-death climax in a share of fourth place with Graeme McDowell on one over par.

Asked if it was a chance lost, Harrington said: “Oh yes, absolutely, I putted terribly.”

Harrington was furious that he failed to take advantage of a back nine collapse by Rose, who was six shots clear of him at the turn.

And the key to Harrington’s annoyance wasn’t just his tally of 30 putts but a loss of concentration after a rules incident with playing partner Martin Kaymer at the par-five fourth.

The German rookie ricocheted into a bush with his approach and appeared to take an incorrect drop on the advice of Spanish referee Pablo Chaves.

The upshot was that after a lengthy delay, the Dubliner missed a vital six foot birdie putt that would have left him just two strokes adrift of Rose at that stage.

Visibly annoyed, Harrington then bogeyed the fifth from the middle of the fairway, dropped another shot at the ninth and was never the same afterwards.

Asked if he was upset by what happened at the fourth, Harrington said: “Yes, I was in the zone and I hadn’t missed a shot. My focus, my attention was spot on.

“I just wasn’t focussed on the putt. My mind was elsewhere. After that the rest was a struggle. I’m disappointed because it was an opportunity missed.

“If Justin had finished five-under I wouldn’t be disappointed. But with one-under par as the winning score, it was obviously within my reach.

“Even over the last couple of holes it could have been done. But I missed three putts on the last three holes.

“It takes a bit of a shine off the season for the moment, though not in two weeks time. Being Open Champion is definitely a far bigger deal.

“ I just wasn’t in the zone. I wasn’t focussed and it was hard work all day. I missed the putt on 16 and the putt on 17. Another day you knock those two in.

“I’m disappointed in the way it happened as opposed to anything else. I think it would have been easier to take if Justin had been four or five under par.

“The Order of Merit is important to me but it’s a missed opportunity. It’s one of those things I look back at and it’s something else to work on in my game.”

Kaymer finished sixth and confessed that the fourth hole had caused some confusion.

He said: “I went into the bushes and there was a just a little problem with the referee. He said I had to drop on the left side of the tree back in line between the flag and the bush and Padraig said I had to drop on the right side of the tree. I think Padraig had a different opinion. It was a little confusing.”

Playing in the group ahead of Rose and Dyson, Harrington parred his first five holes on the back nine to remain in the mix.

By that stage Rose had double bogeyed the par-five 11th and bogeyed the 13th and 14th to lead by just one shot from Kjeldsen on two under par with Harrington tied for third with Dyson on one over.

Harrington then birdied the par three 15th from 12 feet to get to within one stroke of Kjeldsen, Rose and McDowell, who had surged into the picture with that incredible albatross at the 17th.

But the title and the Order of Merit slipped away from Harrington at the next three holes.

A bogey at the 16th, where he left himself a long way back and bunkered his approach, left him two behind Rose, McDowell and Dyson and three behind Kjeldsen, who took the lead with a birdie at the 17th.

Harrington then failed to convert a seven-foot birdie chance at the 17th and missed a difficult 40 foot birdie chance at the last to finish on one over par.

Rose got a break on the 16th, when his tee shot rebounded out of the trees and finished in the middle of the fairway.

A par there helped him steady the ship and after a birdie at the 17th and a bogey at the last for a 74, he took advantage in the play-off by holing from 15 feet at the 10th to secure his fourth European Tour win.

The English ace, 27, jumped five places to seventh in the world and leapfrogged Harrington as Europe’s leading player.

Relieved to get over the winning line, Rose said: “It was a hard day. I looked like losing and dug deep. I’m sure there’s an easy way to do this stuff, but it was terrible. I made a couple of mental errors and even saw the Order of Merit slipping away.

“It’s awesome to do it. Knowing that I had was a nice consolation going into the play-off, but I wanted to do it by winning the tournament.

“It’s been a long road to get here. You need to win tournaments to be regarded as a great player and it would have been very disappointing if I hadn’t won this.”