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14th March: Irish duo make it a day of Double Joy on the US Tour

On a day when Irish rugby takes a tumble Irish golfers soar.

Padraig HarringtonPadraig Harrington, the affable Dubliner shot a scintillating final nine under par round of 63 to come through the field to win the Honda Classic at Palm Beach, Florida yesterday. This is the first victory by any Irishman on the USPGA circuit and justifies Harrington’s decision to focus on the US for the first half of 2005. Starting seven shots behind the leader, Harrington was 10 under for his round for the first 13 holes and was thinking of the magical 59 but bogies in the 14th and 15th refocused his attention winning the tournament rather than on magic numbers. He picked up his final birdie on the par 5 17th and posted an early 14 under target for the chasing pack.  Singh, the world No 2, shot a magnificent 64 and Joe Ogilvie a 68 to match Harrington’s 14 under to force a three-way play off. Ogilvie was eliminated at the first play off hole due to a bogey against the pars of Harrington and Singh. On the second play off hole both Harrington and Singh had similar pitches from pin high just left of the green. Harrington pitched to 5 feet and Singh to half that distance. After Harrington stroked home his par put everything looked set to go to a third playoff hole but amazingly Singh’s two and a half footer lipped out and victory went to the Irishman.

In his post round interview Harrington said he watched Ernie Els on TV as he stormed through the field with a 65 to change a five shot deficit into a one shot victory the Qatar Masters and this started him thinking in a positive vein. Harrington who is renowned for his scrambling skills said his confidence in his chipping and his ability to read the greens were key to his win.  Harrington returns to Ireland for a week or so before he returns to the States to contest in the The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, a tournament in which he finished runner-up last year. Here’s hoping the confidence victory instils will help him go one better this year.

Padraig's first "victory" as a professional was at Ballinrobe Golf Club, where he partnered his father in a fourball match against two of the best local amateurs. He rates Ballinrobe as the finest championhip parkland course in Connaught.

Des SmythDes Smyth completed an amazing double for the Irish in the by winning the SBC Classic at Valencia Country Club at California. The evergreen Smyth from Drogheda in Co. Louth, who played his early golf at Laytown & Bettystown, shot a fine final round of 4 under par to shut out fellow veterans DA Weibring and Mark McNulty. "This is really a big deal for me," he said. "This puts me in the Legends, and the MasterCard and also gives me a boost in the Charles Schwab Cup. I'm in my third season out here now and it really sets things up for me." In a closely contested tournament that saw five players share the lead on the back nine at one stage, Smyth eventually grasped victory when McNulty’s 20 foot putt on the last failed to find the bottom off the cup.  "The course was set up so that nobody was going to run away," he said. "I knew the leaders would be under a lot of pressure and I thought could sneak up on them. I really feel like I kind of stole it."  The first prize of $232,500 puts him in 4th position in this years Champion Tour Money Winning List and effectively guarantees his card for next year. Commenting on Harrington’s win a few hours earlier Smyth says "We're all very happy about Padraig's win today, too," Smyth said. "He's our next big hope to become a major champion. We haven't had an Irishman win a major championship since Fred Daly in the Henry Cotton days."

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