PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Whether he was piling up majors or playing so poorly that he lost his PGA Tour card, Padraig Harrington never wavered from one goal in golf. Just get him anywhere near the lead with nine holes to play, and he would happily take his chances.
His caddie, Ronan Flood, reminded him of that Monday morning in the Honda Classic when Harrington was four shots behind at the turn.
"He said, 'Look, would you have taken this on Thursday?' And I said, 'Yes, that's what you want,'" Harrington said. "You want to be in contention with nine holes to go, because anything can happen coming down the stretch. And it did."
Harrington ran off four consecutive birdies on the back nine to take the lead. He gave it back with a 5-iron into water for double bogey on the par-3 17th. He made a 15-foot birdie putt to force a playoff. And given a shot at redemption, he hit 5-iron to 3 feet on the 17th to win on the second playoff hole when 21-year-old rookie Daniel Berger hit into the water and made double bogey.
Ten years after winning the Honda Classic for his first PGA Tour victory, Harrington won it again. It was his first PGA Tour victory since he won the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills for back-to-back majors.
Harrington lost his card last year and needed a sponsor's exemption to get in the Honda Classic. Now he's eligible for the Masters, the Players Championship and at least two World Golf Championships. He had fallen to No. 297 in the world. The 20th win of his career moved him to No. 82.
None of that mattered to him as he sat next to the trophy, Irish eyes smiling bright as ever.
"It's not about what it means to my career or what it means going forward," he said. "You don't win that often. When you win, make sure you enjoy it."
Harrington's birdie on the 18th was the most meaningful putt he has holed since one from the same distance for par on the 18th at Oakland Hills. It gave him an even-par 70 and the second chance he needed in a playoff over Berger, the hometown rookie who finished birdie-birdie for a 6-under 64.
They finished at 6-under 274, the survivors of a day in which five players had a share of the lead at some point and four of them found water at the worst time.
"It's one of those golf courses where you get yourself in contention, it is a little bit uncomfortable," Harrington said. "But that's the way it is."
Ian Poulter, who had a three-shot lead going into the final round, hit five shots into the water and shot a 75, missing the playoff by a shot.