Padraig Harrington was left cursing his luck as Jeev Milkha Singh snatched a one-stroke victory in the US$5 million Barclays Singapore Open.
In contrast to his Majors wins at Royal Birkdale and Oakland Hills, the Dubliner made two crucial mistakes coming down the stretch and was forced to settle for second place alongside Ernie Els in his final event of 2008 with Rory McIlroy tied for fourth.
The Irishman, 37, can look back on an incredible season following his wins in the Open and the US PGA this summer and will be voted European Tour Player of the Year for the second year in a row at a function in London next month.
But he was still bitterly disappointed to allow victory slip from his grasp on the back nine on Sunday at Sentosa Golf Club’s Serapong course.
“A couple of good shots there at the end of my round were the ones that cost me," said Harrington, who double bogeyed the 16th when his nine-iron approach ran into the water behind the pin and then missed a vital five-footer at the last that would have forced a play-off.
"A got a few breaks earlier on in the round and then hit a lovely shot into 16 but took double bogey and then hit a good shot into the last that was six inches away from being a short putt for eagle.
"But that's the way goes because I holed some other great putts at the right time this year. I am not going to feel good about this one for the next couple of hours though when I look back on my year I won't find it too bad."
Singh hit a final round 69 to finish on seven-under par and looked on as Els missed a 15-foot birdie chance at the last for a 71 that left him tied for second place with Harrington in Asia’s richest national Open.
Rory McIlroy, 19, birdied the last for a 69 that gave him a share fourth place on five-under par with Australia's David Gleeson and a cheque for $US 225,750 (Euro 178,070) that made him the youngest golfer to earn €1m in career prize money.
McIlroy needed only to finish 45th to achieve the feat but he impressed all on his debut in an Asian Tour event that will be co-sanctioned with the European Tour next year.
Set to move up at least ranking 10 spots into the world’s top 70, McIlroy said: “I'm really pleased as a share of fourth is going to mean more world ranking points so I couldn't be happier. It's been another good week for me and is just a continuation of how I have been playing right up to the end of the European Tour season.
"I've now been up there on the leader board for about the last six or seven weeks except for Valderrama and now I'm heading to the Hong Kong Open on a course I know really well from the Faldo Series."
Darren Clarke, the other Irish player in the field, carded a final round 70 for a one over par tally. Clarke's next event will be the December 11th starting Australian Open in Sydney.
Singh’s stunning victory came courtesy of a gutsy final round of two-under-par 69. But he can be thankful that Harrington double bogeyed the 16th and then missed a five-foot birdie chance on 18 to force a play-off.
Playing alongside Singh in the third last group, Harrington was hoping to end his final event of the season on a winning note.
Both players birdied the first two holes to improve to seven under but Harrington edged ahead with his third birdie of the round on the fourth.
Singh drew level before the turn after sticking his approach to six feet at the seventh and took the outright lead for the first time when he sank a five-foot birdie at the 11th.
However, he missed a 10-footer for par on the 13th to drop back into a tie with Harrington, who made a series of gritty par putts to stay in contention.
But the Irishman's luck finally deserted him on the 16th when his second shot from the rough pitched eight feet from the pin but rolled off the green and into the water.
On shot behind Singh playing the par-five 18th, Harrington had to play a fairway wood approach standing on the concrete embankment of the water hazard running all the way down the hole.
But he ran through the back of the green and left his approach with the putter five feet short and then looked on in agony as his birdie putt swerved across the face of the hole and stayed out.
Singh’s sixth Asian Tour victory, worth a cool US$792,500, raised his season’s tally to US$1.4 million, which opened up a gap of nearly US$655,000 from previous leader Mark Brown of New Zealand, who missed the cut here.
“I could not have asked for more honestly – I think I am a very fortunate man to win, those boys put a good effort out there, Ernie and Padraig. The golfing gods are on my side so I am breathing much better now,” said Singh, who won a tournament in Europe and Japan earlier this year.
Starting the final round five strokes back, Singh charged up the leaderboard with an outward 33 and birdied the 11th hole to take charge of the tournament. Bogeys on 13 and 16 set up a tense finish but his rivals failed to take advantage of his late blemishes.
“I saw that I had a one-shot lead coming to the last. I was not hitting my driver that well so I took a three wood – at least confirm a five and if you make a four great. I was fortunate the other guys did not make a four. I am happy,” said Singh.
Els was one over for the round through 12 but a 20-foot birdie on 16 kept him in the title hunt. However, a poor drive on 18 left him with an outside chance for birdie at the last which he missed from 15 feet.
“I missed a putt on 15, which I thought was going in. Made one on 16 and 17 looked like it was going in but it didn’t and 18 was unbelievable. The gods were not with me. They all looked like they were going in,” said Els.
“It could have been a win. But Jeev is a great guy and I’m happy for him,” said the South African “I was trying to make the putt on 18 but maybe I hit it a bit too soft. It shows that golf is just a game of inches. It could have stayed straight and I’m in the play-off. I’m just disappointed right now.”
Singh is expected to move back into the world’s top-50 with his third win of the season, which will come with an invite back to the US Masters. The Indian, who is already exempt in the other three Majors through his finish in Europe, is also poised to win the prestigious Asian Tour’s Order of Merit where Brown only has a mathematical chance to dislodge him but needs to win the remaining four tournaments of the season.
“It is great. There are too many landmarks! I do not really know what to say. At the end of the day you just want to play good golf and if these things come your way it is fantastic,” said the 36-year-old Indian.