2005: One heck of a Honda
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Disappointment hung around the Honda Classic well before any fans started to.
It was, after all, the week after the Duel at Doral.
After Tiger Woods’ and Phil Mickelson’s celebrated final-round feud at the Ford Championship in Miami, which many have labeled one of the best regular PGA Tour events in history, no one really expected the following week to bear any resemblance. No Duel at Doral, perhaps, but it turned out to be one Heck of a Honda.
Rain on Wednesday only darkened the foreshadowing at the Country Club of Mirasol, as 3 inches washed out the weekly pro-am and each amateur’s non-refundable $4,000 entry fee.
It also cost Padraig Harrington what would have been his first look at Mirasol’s long, wind-ravaged Sunrise Course, the Irishman’s final American stop before heading home for a week off before The Players Championship. It was a trip he was looking forward to, considering he was talking about it with competitor Marco Dawson March 13 as they took their Sunday stroll down the 18th fairway.
“What?” Dawson joked. “You go back, have a few pints, eat some corned beef . . . is that how you get ready for The Players?”
A few hours later, the answer became clear as Vijay Singh’s 21⁄2-footer for par on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff rimmed out to seal Harrington’s comeback victory: Before the Guinness and grub, you win.
“I’m thrilled, if not a little bit surprised,” said Harrington, who rebounded from a first-round 73 and a seven-stroke Sunday deficit with a final-round 63 to become the first player from the Republic of Ireland to win on the PGA Tour. And four days before St. Patrick’s Day, no less. He received a congratulatory message on behalf of Irish President Mary McAleese soon after his victory.
“President of the country congratulates you – not too bad,” said Harrington, who earned $990,000. “I’m sure I kept a few pubs open tonight.”
They would have had to start serving bangers and mash had Singh not missed what everyone thought was a gimme.
“A short putt like that, you kind of take it for granted,” said Singh, who even with the victory could not have regained the No. 1 World Ranking he lost last week to Woods. “I should have taken more care of that. On grainy greens like this, you better hit it dead on line or else you’re not going to hit it, and I hit it a little bit firm. I shouldn’t have missed it.”
It was a surprise ending to a wild day that began with 20 players within six shots of the lead. One of the biggest stories of the week – nearby Jupiter resident and journeyman Brett Wetterich – made a triple-bogey 7 on No. 13 to fall from the top, a spot Pat Perez and Geoff Ogilvy also found ways to abandon. It ended with a three-man playoff between Harrington, Singh and Joe Ogilvie, all of whom finished at 14-under 274. Only Ogilvie began the day in the top 5.
Harrington, who started the final round tied for 21st, made 10 birdies in his first 13 holes, let his mind wander to thoughts “about shooting 59,” and held on to post a 63, the lowest finish by a winner on Tour this season. Singh, who began the day among a group of 10 players at T-11, shot 64.
Ogilvie shot 68, and fell inches short of his first Tour victory, missing a birdie putt on 18 that would have made Selection Sunday something extra special. A Duke alum, Ogilvie’s Blue Devils won the ACC Tournament title, then were awarded a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The bubble finally burst for Ogilvie when he hit his drive on the first playoff hole (No. 18) into a left fairway bunker and he needed four shots to reach the green.
Harrington also missed the fairway, pushing his tee shot close to the water in the right rough. He missed the green with his approach, but hit a masterful flop shot to get up-and-down for par.
The only player to hit the fairway, Singh slammed his approach to 14 feet. But his putt was offline from the moment he hit it, and the pair returned to the 18th tee.
This time, both players found the fairway and missed the green in similar spots. Harrington got up-and-down for par, draining his 4-footer. Singh missed a putt he might not have 99 other times.
“Hard luck,” said Harrington, who lost to Singh in a three-hole playoff at the 2001 Carlsberg Malaysian Open and has 26 runner-up finishes worldwide. “You know, that’s golf. . . . What can you do? You can only say ‘hard luck’ and mean it. I’ve been there and I’ve seen it.”
And when an Irishman talks about luck close to Paddy’s Day, he means it.