Padraig Harrington produced a blistering back nine to close with a three under par 68 and share of third place behind winner Phil Mickelson in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera.
After finishing 11th in Abu Dhabi four weeks ago and tied 14th at Pebble Beach last week, the Open champion staved off the effects of flu to grab his best finish in the US for 18 months.
Harrington finished tied for third with Luke Donald to earn huge handful of world ranking points that will give him a massive Ryder Cup boost and plenty of confidence ahead of this week’s Accenture Match Play Championship clash with American Jerry Kelly in Arizona.
Mickelson closed with a one under par 70, surviving off a mid-round challenge by Jeff Quinney (71) to win his 33rd PGA Tour title by two shots on 12 under par.
But Harrington was still pleased to share third place as be blitzed the back nine at the Hollywood club, coming home in four under par 32.
“While it was a good return, it probably wasn’t as comfortable as the score was,” Harrington said. “At times my concentration wasn’t 100 percent but I am delighted to be as competitive as I am when I am not in tip top shape.”
Pleased with his form ahead of this week’s Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson, Harrington added: “I am happy with how things are going. But if I come against someone in form, I don’t know I have the ability to raise my game at this time of the year but certainly the first two weeks are encouraging.”
He got his final round off to the ideal start when he birdied the first from eight feet after negotiating a tricky downhill chip from some fluffy rough at the back of the green.
But after hard worked pars at the second and third, he bogeyed the fourth and seventh to turn for home nine strokes behind Mickelson on three under par.
An aggressive approach was called for and Harrington began to motor again on the back nine, racking up back-to-back birdies at the 10th and 11th to leap up the packed leaderboard on another sun-splashed but breezy Los Angeles afternoon.
The first of them was a superb long pitch to a back pin at the 315-yard par-four that finished just two feet away and he followed that with a chip-and putt birdied from the apron on the par-five 11th to move into a share of eighth place on five under par.
It could have been even better for the Dubliner, 36, who had a 10 footer for eagle at the par-five 17th but had to settle for birdie.
Harrington’s finish did not go unnoticed by Ryder Cup skipper Nick Faldo, who was commentating for CBS.
“It’s very good for the Ryder Cup points,” Faldo said as Harrington rolled in a nine-footer for birdie at the 15th to move to two under par for the day and into a share of fourth place. “We’re on countdown now.”
Chasing only title on the west coast swing that has eluded him so far, Mickelson extended his one-stroke overnight lead over 2002 US Amateur champion Quinney to three shots when he birdied the first and his nearest challenger bogeyed the third.
But the birdies dried up for Mickelson who bogeyed the ninth to turn for home one stroke adrift of 29 year old Quinney, who had surged into the lead on 12 under par with birdies at the sixth, eighth and ninth.
Mickelson birdied the 10th to draw level and then watched as Quinney matched his birdie at the par five 11th with a brave 20 footer.
But the challenger faltered down the stretch, dropping shots at the 13th and 14th to fall two behind.
Both men bogeyed the 15th before Quinney three-putted the par-five 17th for bogey to give Mickelson a three stroke cushion playing the last.
In the end, Quinney drained a 25 footer fo birdie and card a level par 71 while England’s Luke Donald holed a 34-footer at the last for a 68 to share third place with Harrington on seven under par worth $359,600 each.