Monster putt gives Harrington victory

From Brian Keogh in Tucson

Et tu Padraig. It wasn’t quite what a shell shocked Lee Westwood said as he trudged to the locked room but he must have felt almost betrayed by his Ryder Cup team mate after Padraig Harrington stabbed him in the heart with a 42 foot eagle putt at the first extra hole.

The clash with Harrington and Westwood was always going to be one of the tastiest first round morsels in the WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship. But only until Darren Clarke and Sergio Garcia contrived to match it, with the Spaniard winning with a birdie at the 19th.

Harrington admitted that he felt as though he had dodged a bullet in the Arizona desert as he produced an eagle when it mattered most to secure victory at the 19th and a second round clash with American Stewart Cink today.

The Dubliner was never ahead until his long, raking putt snaked its way in the back of the cup at the 588-yard par five opening hole at The Gallery Golf Club outside Tucson.

"I knew it was going to be very difficult,” Harrington said afterwards. “Lee was always going to be a very tough draw but I tried to convince myself that all matches are going to be tough. He played very well and hardly made a mistake really.

“He is a great player from tee to green. He kept going after the pins all day and hit a lot of good shots. I have got to say I definitely took my chance. I feel lucky to have got away with this one.”

Westwood looked as though he had lady luck on his side all day long when he twice holed steaming putts from off the green - from 30 feet at the second and from 60 feet at the par three eighth - to take a slender one hole lead into the back nine.

Harrington gifted him the 11th when he overshot the green and conceded to go two down but the key moment came at the the par four 12th, where the Dubliner was forced to hole a 12 footer for par to avoid going three down.

“Sometimes playing a hole badly is the best thing you can do,” Harrington said. “I hit my drive right, played too cautiously with a long bunker shot and it rolled back off the green.

“I chipped to 12 feet and holing the putt to stay two down. If I had two putted for my par I probably wouldn't have felt as good for the last few holes.”

A mistake by Westwood at the 14th, where he missed the green to the right and failed to get up and down, gave Harrington a lifeline that he clutched with both hands.

Back to one down, the European number one bravely holed a six footer for birdie at the 17th to take the match up the last and while he failed to close it out there, missing from 10 feet for birdie, he was like an assassin on the 19th.

“I was never up,” added a relieved Harrington. “I had a great opportunity to win it on 18 and when I didn’t hole that I didn't feel good about the play-off holes. But I hit two great shots down the first into the middle of the green.

“Lee had chipped up stone dead for birdie and I had a 40 footer but thankfully having played the hole already I knew the line and hit a really good putt.

“It looked like it was going in all the way and I had my hands up in the air before it went it. It probably would have gone four feet if it hadn't gone in, so I was happy to see it hit the back of the hole and drop.”

Clarke, on the other hand, failed to match Garcia’s power when it mattered and made an early exit for the third year in a row when the Spaniard birdied the par five 17th to draw level and then repeated the feat in extra holes, two-putting for a winning birdie after Clarke had bunkered his approach and failed to hole from 60 feet.

The Ulsterman was one down after nine in an enthralling contest but battled his way back with an eagle at the 10th, where he holed a 40 footer from the fringe, and a birdie at the 14th to go one up before Garcia found that extra gear near the end.

Garcia said: "It is a pity that one of us had to go home. When you are playing well it is always hard to go out in the first round and I know Darren will be disappointed.

"I got behind the eight ball when I went one down there with four to play but I holed a few putts when I had to and I'm happy to get through"

While he contended for the Nissan Open at Riviera last weekend, Harrington does not believe that tiredness will be a factor against Cink today but later in the event.

"If I am disciplined enough today, there shouldn't be a problem going out and playing another 18 holes tomorrow," he said. "Tiredness might be a factor, and I hope it is a factor, on Sunday afternoon. I'll put up with it at that stage.

"It's still very early season for me. I struggled big-time with my concentration and I had to work very hard towards the end to get my focus right. It is very early season , so I can't have too high an expectation about how I am going to do this week."

Harrington will be unable to watch Saturday evening's game if he makes it to the semi-finals but Clarke will get his wish and take his seat at GAA Headquarters on disastrous day all round for his stable mates at International Sports Management (ISM).

Defeats for Clarke and Westwood came hot on the heels of Ernie Els' 4 and 2 loss to Bradley Dredge and were quickly followed by defeats for David Howell to Stuart Appleby by 4 and 3 and Jeev Milkha Singh, who lost to Harrington's second round opponent Cink.

Garcia was certainly sympathetic to his Ryder Cup team mate Clarke, though pleased to progress to a second round clash with last week's Nissan Open winner Charles Howell.

"You feel good but at the same time you feel bad after everything is said and done, no matter who wins or loses" Garcia said. "If you lose you feel happy for him because he is a friend of yours and he does through.But you never want to lose.

"He played very nicely on the back nine. It was nice to see the way he was striking the ball. Hopefully he'll keep it up in the next tournaments."