By Brian Keogh
Padraig Harrington survived a Jean Van de Valde moment of madness to head to Carnoustie on a high.
The Dubliner's triple bogey seven on the 17th at The European Club could have cost him the Irish PGA title as he went from two ahead to one behind Brendan McGovern.
But a brave final hole birdie forced a play-off with the Headfort club pro in which Harrington eventually lifted the title for the fourth time with a winning par four.
As he headed for Carnoustie, where Van de Valde famously threw away the Open in 1999 with a seven at the last, Harrington confessed that the heat of competition was just the thing he needed ahead of the Open.
He said: "I can't make things easy but it is always nice to win and better to get the experience of playing in play-offs.
"You can't beat competing. In the end of the day I could finish 10th in an event and win $150,000 with the prize funds these days. But there is nothing like finishing first. There is nothing like competing to win. There is a different kind of stress in that.
"It may only be €12,500 but the competing is everything. I am trying as hard as I can. I am nervous on 18 and I am nervous playing tie holes. You can't beat that sort of thing.
"Carnoustie is going to be similar to The European Club, though a little longer. We are going to be asked to hit our driver a little bit more over there.
"But besides that the preparation was good and you are getting to judge how far the ball is going in these conditions.
"I am sure it is going to be similar temperature wise and wind wise next week so I think it has been excellent build up."
Harrington still has work to do on his mental game, however, and that 71st hole triple bogey could prove to be the wake up call he needs to end Ireland's 60 year wait for a major victory.
While Fred Daly took the Open at Hoylake in 1947, Harrington matched him on Saturday in another department when he became just the third man to complete an Irish Open - Irish PGA double.
His fourth win in the domestic professional championship was also his third in sudden-death.
Now with 19 professional victories to his credit, Harrington is hoping that his decision to play the Irish PGA the week before the Open will pay off big time.
Forced to play 36 holes on the final day due to Friday's third round postponement due to weather, he was made to work harder than he wanted by Headfort ace McGovern.
The former European Tour pro, 41, hit a five under 66 to Harrington's 70 in the third round to take a two shot lead into the afternoon.
And while he still led by two shots with six to play, Harrington birdied three in a row from the 13th to move one in front.
That advantage became two shots when McGovern bogeyed the 16th but Harrington then looked to have thrown the title away when he drove into rough and put his second in a bush to rack up a triple bogey seven on the 17th.
One behind playing the 18th, Harrington rifled his approach to 12 feet and birdied to force extra time before McGovern drove into bushes at the 18th the second time around and had no chance of matching Harrington's par four after a penalty drop.
The world No 10 went to Wicklow hoping to sharpen his links game for Carnoustie, but he got a vital mental boost as well as a reminder that complacency kills.
Harrington said: "I made it hard and I always do. I just got complacent on 17 - I got distracted on the tee and I should have stood off it.
"I was two ahead and thought nothing way going wrong. I went ahead anyway and hit a bad tee shot and I have to watch those mistakes. It really was a time to stand off it and I didn't.
"I do that sometimes, when I believe things I going for me. When things aren't going for me, that is when I made my birdies today. I need to be in the frame of mind more often.
"The birdie at the 18th was good but the three birdies in a row were important because nothing was really going my way.
"I hit some nice iron shots and they were going 20 feet by the hole. But to birdie three in a row and get right back in it, it looked like it was going to be comfortable from there on in.
"It was nice to birdie 18, I needed it to get into the play off. Brendan had hardly put a foot wrong all day. Even when he did get into trouble once on 16, he recovered so well. It was a bit unlucky for him."
Club pro McGovern was brilliant on the final day as he kept pace with the world No 10 until a poor drive cost him on the 16th and again in sudden death.
But Harrington paid tribute to him, adding: "Brendan has been out there on tour and every time he plays in tour events he acquits himself very well. Sometimes the golf courses can be very long out there. But he acquits himself very out there playing with the best."
McGovern was shattered to come so close and lose, but his driving problems eventually caught up with him over the closing holes.
He said: "Even though I drove the ball well for four days, I have been driving it badly for three years now. I was waiting for that bad shot and it came along on 16 and again in the play-off.
"Having said that, I was lucky on the 17th with what happened to Padraig. I played well and I enjoyed it. I hit a good third shot on 18 and a good pitch. But fair dos to Padraig. The best player won."