Harrington "distraught" with putting
 Pádraig Harrington walks quickly after his par putt at the 13th. "It's a bit like the end of last year - happy with how I am hitting the golf ball, but distraught with how I am putting."

Pádraig Harrington walks quickly after his par putt at the 13th. "It's a bit like the end of last year - happy with how I am hitting the golf ball, but distraught with how I am putting."

You could cut the frustration with a knife but it was probably best to keep sharp objects well away from Pádraig Harrington after he finished three shots adrift of winner Louis Oosthuizen in the Volvo Golf Champions.

Going straight to the nub of the matter, he said: "It's a bit like the end of last year - happy with how I am hitting the golf ball, but distraught with how I am putting." 

A closing 67 for a share of fifth place has obvious positive connotations but Harrington could only reflect on how he missed a string of short putts and his three-putt at the 13th will haunt him for days.

Having knocked his birdie effort around eight feet past the hole, he struggled to pull the trigger and then made that yippy, snatch that has plagued him for the past two years and tugged his par-saver wide.

"I'll rue a lot of misses this week," he said after birdies at the 14th and 17th followed by a narrow miss at the last took some of the pain out of the miss at the 13th where a birdie would have left him a shot off the lead.

"I missed a lot of short putts through the week and when you add it all up...."

Just two shots off the lead with seven holes to pay, Harrington would go to the last just a shot behind Oosthuizen after holing a super 20 footer for birdie at the 17th.

Despite his aberration at the 13th, there was still an outside chance that he could set a 10 under par clubhouse target and dream of a play-off. But in his heart of hearts, Harrington knew that the game was up.

"I kind of had the feeling coming home that there were too many guys doing well that you weren't going to get away with winning this tournament with nine or even 10 under par," he said. "There were too many guys up there and somebody was going to finish well because 14 and 18 were downwind and very easy birdies." 

Sadly for the Dubliner, he failed to birdie the 18th despite trying hard to hole a greenside bunker shot for an eagle two. 

"I hit some good putts at times out there and really gave the bunker shot a go at the last. I felt like I gave it a good go. 

 Louis Oosthuizen retained the title thanks to a closing 68. Picture © Volvo in Golf

Louis Oosthuizen retained the title thanks to a closing 68. Picture © Volvo in Golf

"It's nice to be close at the end of the day and it was a nice feeling to be pushing there. I hit a really nice tee shot off 18 and birdied 17. So there were a lot of good signs there at the end. So it's a bit like the end of last year - happy with how I am hitting the golf ball, but distraught with how I am putting. 

"It was nice to feel like I had a chance coming down the stretch and that is always a nice place to be. The ball come out down the middle most of the day, which was nice. I got a few nice breaks, no doubt about it."

Six shots behind England's Tommy Fleetwood starting the day, Harrington birdied the par-five third, bogeyed the fifth but then birdied the seventh and eagled the par-five eighth to turn in 33.

At seven under par he would have needed to come home in 31 to match Oosthuizen and simply left himself too much to do despite getting some breaks.

"I hit a wedge out of the rough on 11 that went stone dead and any time you are hitting from the rough it is a big break," he said. "But I missed maybe five putts from five or six feet range and three-putted the 13th at a bad time. 

"It was nice to play well and we will keep ticking along and hopefully, as I said, the putting returns. 

"I hit some good putts at times out there and really gave the bunker shot a go at the last. I felt like I gave it a good go. I am disappointed that I missed the putt but not disappointed that I hit the bunker shot eight feet by for sure. 

"I hit a lovely tee shot and I was a bit disappointed to be in the bunker. There was a chance there if I could get to 11 under that maybe that would be good enough.

"I am disappointed that I missed the putt but not disappointed that I hit the bunker shot eight feet by for sure. I hit a lovely tee shot and I was a bit disappointed to be in the bunker. 

"There was a chance there if I could get to 11 under that maybe that would be good enough."

It all came down to putting in the end and while he used the blade just 28 times on Sunday, he was 21st out of 36 for putts per round and 10th for putts per green in regulation.

"Maybe things would have been different if I hadn't left a lot of shots out there every day," said Harrington, who earned €116,761 for his efforts. "I don't know about anyone else, but I just struggled on the greens and missed a lot of short putts." 

Branden Grace set the clubhouse target at 11 under par when he birdied the 16th and 18th but Oosthuizen was equal to the challenge as he retained the title in some style.

One off the pace with two to play, he hit his approach stone dead at the 17th to draw level with Grace and then chipped to two feet at the last to set up the winning birdie and a closing 68.

Darren Clarke failed to build on the promise of his opening rounds and ended up tied for 24th (€40,431) on one-over after a closing 77 featuring 33 putts.

 Louis Oosthuizen celebrates his successful defence of the Volvo Golf Champions. © Volvo In Golf

Louis Oosthuizen celebrates his successful defence of the Volvo Golf Champions. © Volvo In Golf

Michael Hoey's 74 left him tied for 29th (€36,080) on four over while Simon Thornton shared 31st (€34,448) on five over after a birdie-birdie finish saw him card a closing 71 to outscore his final round playing partner José María Olazábal by two strokes.

Oosthuizen was suitably delighted with his win.

“It’s great to start the year with a win again,” he said. “It feels really good and hopefully I can defend next year.  Volvo is an unbelievable company, with what they do for golf on The European Tour and worldwide, so to defend the Volvo Golf Champions tournament is special, and hopefully I can go three in a row.

“It looks like proper rest, with no golf, is the key for me. It doesn’t work all of the time, but it has for the last few years.”

Oosthuizen, whose 2013 season was hampered by a back injury, had started the day two strokes behind overnight leader Tommy Fleetwood, and had a slow start to his final round, carding seven consecutive pars before sinking a 12 foot eagle putt on the eighth hole.

He then dropped a shot on the tenth before back-to-back birdies on the 13 and 14th holes pushed him into a share of the lead with Grace, who had posted a hat-trick of birdies from the sixth hole before his only bogey of the day on the 15th hole.

Grace’s birdie on the 16th, which Oosthuizen bogeyed, meant it was Grace who temporarily held the advantage, but Oosthuizen dug deep and produced the two closing birdies when it mattered most to retain his title.

“I knew Branden was going to make a charge and I saw him up there early. I really thought that you're going to see the South Africans coming through today, and Joost Luiten played really well but just missed a few putts.  He's a good player but Branden was the one that really spurred me on to finish well.”

Grace will rue his opening round 74 and some missed chances during his final round as he fell just short in his bid for a fifth European Tour victory, having won the title two years ago when he defeated fellow countrymen Ernie Els and Retief Goosen in a play-off at Fancourt.

“I let a couple slip out there which was unfortunate, but it was a good start to the year,” he said. “If you told me my first event, I’d start off with a second place, and coming this close, I would have taken it.  So I'm very pleased.  The winner at the end of this week is going to be the true champion, and Louis played well, so he deserves it.”

Englishman Fleetwood, who took a one stroke lead into the final round, carded a level par round of 72 to share third position on ten under par with Dutchman Luiten, who had a 71.

Harrington's 67 left him in a share of fifth position alongside French pair Victor Dubuisson (72) and Raphaël Jacquelin.

Complete final round scores from the Volvo Golf Champions at Durban Country Club (par 72)

276 L Oosthuizen  (RSA) 68 69 71 68

277 B Grace  (RSA) 74 67 68 68,

278 J Luiten (Ned) 70 67 70 71, T Fleetwood  (Eng) 70 67 69 72,

279 R Jacquelin (Fra) 67 73 70 69, V Dubuisson  (Fra) 69 69 69 72, P Harrington (Irl) 71 71 70 67,

281 T Aiken (RSA) 72 72 70 67, J Quesne  (Fra) 74 73 66 68,

283 M Manassero (Ita) 72 67 73 71, B Rumford (Aus) 73 70 68 72, T Björn (Den) 79 68 67 69,

284 J Donaldson (Wal) 71 71 68 74, M Madsen  (Den) 71 74 69 70,

285 C Schwartzel  (RSA) 74 69 68 74, M Siem  (Ger) 70 71 72 72, M Jiménez (Esp) 76 70 67 72,

286 C Wood  (Eng) 70 71 71 74,

287 P Casey  (Eng) 72 75 65 75, G Fdez-Castaño  (Esp) 74 73 71 69, M Ilonen  (Fin) 73 73 69 72,

288 J Jeong (Kor) 73 76 68 71, D Lynn (Eng) 71 74 72 71,

289 K Aphibarnrat (Tha) 75 74 71 69, D Clarke (Nir) 69 71 72 77, C Montgomerie  (Sco) 70 74 69 76, D Howell (Eng) 76 69 71 73,

291 R Sterne  (RSA) 72 73 73 73,

292 M Hoey  (Nir) 72 73 73 74, S Gallacher (Sco) 73 74 72 73,

293 S Thornton (Irl) 70 72 80 71,

294 R Karlsson (Swe) 74 72 73 75,

295 D Van Der Walt (RSA) 71 71 75 78,

296 P Uihlein  (USA) 70 78 70 78,

297 D Fichardt (RSA) 73 71 74 79,

300 J Olazábal (Esp) 73 77 77 73