Padraig Harrington recorded his best finish on tour for 13 months yet still jetted out of Malaysia a disappointed man.
The defending champion finished tied for third, two shots behind maiden European Tour winner Joost Luiten of the Netherlands in the weather-curtailed Iskandar Johor Open following a two under 69.
Luiten fired six birdies in an impressive, six under 65 to win by a shot on 15-under par from overnight leader Daniel Chopra of Sweden with Harrington tied on 13 under with Rhys Davies (65) and James Morrison (69).
The Dubliner had his heart set on a successful title defence having gone into the third and final round just two strokes behind Chopra. But he was left to rue failures to get up and down for birdie on the 342-yard 16th or par-five 18th and will need at least a top-10 finish in the Hong Kong Open in two weeks’ time if he is to qualify for the Dubai World Championship.
“It’s obviously very disappointing. I’m disappointed not to have chipped and putted on the 16th and 18th holes. It’s a real pity, but there you go, it is what it is.”
He added: “I was happy with a lot of things this week. I’m happy with my form, I’m happy with the way I’m playing, and most of all I’m happy with where my head was at.
“I’m just a little disappointed with the finished result, but you can’t win them all. When you get that close, put yourself in contention, you want to pull it off.
“But it’s not always possible, and Joost obviously played very well today. At least it gives me a lot of confidence for the last couple of events.”
Harrington headed home for a week’s rest as the focus shifts to the Mission Hills World Cup but he knows he faces a do-or-die situation when he returns to action in the UBS Hong Hong Open from December 1-4.
Despite picking up a cheque for €75,201 in Johor, the world No 83 could only move up to a 65th in the Race to Dubai standings and so remains outside the top 60 who will contest next month’s Dubai World Championship.
Harrington is more than €36,000 behind 60th ranked Stephen Gallacher and will likely to need a top-five finish in Fanling to be absolutely sure of extending his season by another week.
He is something of a Hong Kong specialist, however, having claimed the title at Hong Kong GC in December 2003 (2004 season) and then finished second to Miguel Angel Jimenez in his title defence in 2004 (2005 season.
But he will face stiff opposition this year as world No 2 Rory McIlroy heads a field that also features Justin Rose, defending champion Ian Poulter, the Molinari brothers Edoardo and Francesco, two-time champion Jimenez and major winner YE Yang.
Peter Lawrie closed with a 67 to finish tied 29th on six under in Malaysia with Michael Hoey a shot further back in 38th after a 72 that was marred by a double bogey seven at the 18th.
Hoey is 21st in the Race to Dubai standings but Lawrie is now 59th, just €21,089 ahead of 61st ranked Steve Webster.