| Jyoti Randhawa watches his shot on the ninth hole at the Ta Shee Golf and Country Club in Taipei Sunday. (AFP)
Ta Shee (Taiwan): Padraig Harrington holed a tough par putt on the final green to win the Asian Open by one stroke on Sunday.
The Irishman closed with a final round of three-under-par 69 on the Ta Shee course for a 15-under winning tally in the co-sanctioned Asian and European Tour event.
Harrington had first managed to save par at the 16th after finding a water hazard with his drive when leading by two strokes and then bogeyed the next prior to sealing a sixth Tour victory.
India’s Jyoti Randhawa finished a creditable second with a 14-under total courtesy of a closing eight-under 64.
Randhawa had the distinction of recording the two best rounds of the week after commencing the tournament with a seven-under 65 and then ending with a 64. The trio of Dutchman Maarten Lafeber, South African Trevor Immelman and American Andrew Pitts were tied in third place at 12-under and one ahead of Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, the reigning Asian Tour number one.
Harrington began the closing round one stroke behind Lafeber and soon drew level with the hapless Dutchman with a second hole birdie.
The Irishman then set about distancing himself from Lafeber and his other rivals with a string of three birdies from the fifth hole to race three strokes ahead at 16-under.
The world number eight dropped a stroke at the par-four ninth when his drive ended beside a tree down the left side of the fairway.
For a second time in three events, Harrington improvised, playing a left-handed shot with his right hand club turned back the front but finding a greenside bunker.
It was not the Irish golfer’s only anguish over the final round on route to the $250,050 first prize cheque.
Harrington found a water hazard after a drive of 310 yards at the downhill 16th and thought at first his ball might have disappeared down a fairway drain before TV coverage showed the ball had run across the drain and into the hazard.
He then bogeyed the 17th after leaving his third shot, a chip, short of the green before finding the green right of the hole at the last.
But Harrington managed to get to ball out from a tough lie and to within eight feet from where he holed his winning putt.
Victory lifted Harrington to the top of the European Order of Merit in the first event of the 2003 European International schedule.
“It’s great to be European number one in Europe at last,” was Harrington’s first comment.
“I played nicely all day and noticed on the 15th green that I was two ahead and still trying to make birdies but thinking over those last few holes that pars would be good enough.
“But when you get into that frame of mind you struggle to make pars. It’s really nice to start a new season like this with a win and it’s nice to have that bonus for when the season does get going properly next year.”
Harrington’s first victory on the Asian continent makes amends for losing a three-hole play-off to Vijay Singh in last year’s Malaysian Open.