PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — The par-3 17th at PGA National cost Padraig Harrington the lead in regulation during Monday’s finish at The Honda Classic. But it didn’t cost him the tournament.
The 43-year-old Irishman redeemed himself during a playoff with rookie Daniel Berger, winning the second playoff hole with a par at the 17th to claim his first win on the PGA Tour since the 2008 PGA Championship.
It ended a long climb back to the Tour’s winner’s circle for the three-time majors champ, who entered this week ranked 297th in the Official World Golf Ranking — the same ranking that James Hahn had last week before winning the Northern Trust Open.
It had been 2,395 days since that PGA Championship win, when Harrington was ranked No. 3 in the world.
“I think I found that mental edge I’ve been lacking the last couple of years,” said Harrington.
Harrington had put himself in position to win in regulation with a string of four consecutive birdies on the back nine. But at the 17th, he found the water and double-bogeyed, giving Berger a one-shot lead.
Harrington bounced back, rolling in a clutch birdie putt at the 18th to force the playoff.
Both players then parred the first playoff hole, the 18th, before Harrington struck the winning shot with his tee shot at the 17th to inside 5 feet. Berger followed by finding the water with his tee shot.
Berger had started the final round nine shots off the lead and was in position to complete the improbable rally; only Paul Lawrie’s 10-shot rally at the 1999 Open Championship was a bigger rally to win.
Although the 21-year-old Berger didn’t get the victory, he could still take pride in his finish in his 12th PGA TOUR start.
“I think it was a great learning experience,” Berger said.
Berger, the 173rd-ranked player in the world, shot a final-round 64, finished early Monday at 6 under, then saw everybody fall back as he waited on the practice green for the final groups to finish. When Harrington found the water with his tee shot at 17 for a double bogey, Berger had the solo lead.
There were 11 lead changes, including ties, in the final round that was pushed to Monday’s finish following weather issues during the weekend.
Berger’s 64 tied for the lowest round of the week at PGA National. He birdied the final two holes of the Bear Trap — including a two-putt birdie at the par-5 18th after he found the green in two — to put himself in position for the win. He finished more than an hour before the final group.
Meanwhile, the players at the top of the leaderboard struggled on the Monday finish.
Ian Poulter, who had a three-shot lead after 54 holes, double-bogeyed the 11th, then triple-bogeyed the 14th. Ultimately, he put five balls in the water in his final round and said afterward that he was “bitterly disappointed.”
“It’s a shame to hand the tournament away,” Poulter added. “… I’ve handed one away this week and it’s gonna hurt.”
Paul Casey, who was tied with Poulter for the overnight lead, suffered two bogeys on the back nine and failed to produce a birdie.
“I’m disappointed not to at least make one birdie out there this morning,” Casey said. “But I gave it my best shot and I’m really happy with the way I played this week.”
Patrick Reed, who at one point had the outright lead Monday, doubled the 15th when he found the water, then followed with another bogey at the 16th.
“Any time you feel like you didn’t have your A Game and struggling a little bit and be able to finish inside the Top 10 is always good,” said Reed, who will enter this week’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship as the defending champ.