McIlroy makes amends in HK for'08 playoff

[caption id="attachment_68293" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington has suffered a slump in form and is currently 81st in the world rankings."]


Gregory Havret has had a ringside seat to some of the best golf that Northern Ireland has produced. He was second in Graeme McDowell's U.S. Open at Pebble Beach last year and on Sunday he witnessed Rory McIlroy slam the door shut in the UBS Hong Kong open by chipping in at 18 from a greenside bunker to claim the victory and leave Havret musing on what might have been.

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The win was sweet redemption for McIlroy, who lost out here in a playoff in 2008 and has been stewing over that ever since. The tournament also had major implications for the Irish trio of Peter Lawrie, Padraig Harrington and Gareth Maybin.

McIlroy was always prominent at Fanling, sharing the overnight lead after both of the first two rounds with Alvaro Quiros. The eventual winner played bogey-free golf in the first round, shooting 6-under-par 64, followed by 69 the next day.

Quiros went three strokes up on McIlroy on Saturday, carding 67 to the Irishman's 70. McIlroy couldn't get anything going on the front nine, where he took two bogeys without a birdie. Birdies on a couple of par-4s on the back nine brought him back to level for the round.

McIlroy later attributed his sluggish play to an equally lethargic feeling that might be the result of spending the last month on tour in east Asia. At the advice of his manager, he spent Sunday morning in the gym, so as to get his heart rate going and his blood pumping.

Quiros obliged, as well, going badly wrong early in his round, which included a double bogey at the par-3 seventh hole. He went out in 39, while McIlroy went out in 33, reversing the 3-stroke advantage to McIlroy.

McIlroy avoided bogeys altogether on Sunday, and came in with three birdies after making the turn for 65. He was one stroke up on Havret when they teed off at 18, and sealed the victory with his chip for birdie. Havret, who took par at the last hole for 270, finished in second place, two strokes behind McIlroy at 268.

"I wanted to win this tournament so badly since that playoff in 2008, and I've had to wait a couple years to get there but, finally, to get this trophy in my hands is very special," McIlroy said. "And it means a lot. It meant a lot to go out there today, knowing that I had to play well, to keep myself in the Race to Dubai, probably to keep myself in second place in the World Rankings. There's a lot to play for, and to produce the sort of golf that I did today is very pleasing."

McIlroy now reports to Dubai for the European Tour finale, where he will try to wrest the top spot from Luke Donald, who is also the World No. 1. They will be joined by 58 others, including McDowell, Darren Clarke, Michael Hoey, Shane Lowry and Lawrie, but not Harrington.

The Dubai event is limited to the top 60 money earners on the Tour, which put Lawrie on the bubble, as he entered Hong Kong in 60th place. He ended up tied for 21st place at Fanling, which moved him up three spots on the Race to Dubai list and ensured that he will have a tee time in Dubai. He opened with three rounds of 69 and ended with 71 to leave him two strokes over par for the event at 278.

The implications for Harrington are much more dire. He needed to produce a finish that would move him up seven spots on the Race to Dubai list. His 4-over-par 284 (70-71-70-73) wasn't up to the task, however, and he shared 51st place in the tournament. He didn't budge on the money list, finishing roughly €46,000 short of his goal. Currently 81st in the World Rankings, Harrington will not be eligible for early-season World Golf Championship events, which will compound scheduling issues for him as he tries to juggle the minimum requirements necessary to remain a member in good standing of both the PGA and European Tours.

As for Maybin, his share of 38th place moved him up three spots on the money list to enable him to avoid Q-School and maintain his Tour status for 2012.


McDowell finished joint-third in the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club in Sun City, South Africa. He led after the first two rounds, but Lee Westwood's third-round 62 had the field at the Englishman's mercy.

McDowell finished at 11-under-par 277 (70-67-70-70), which was four strokes in back of Westwood.