KILLARNEY: England’s Ross Fisher held off a spirited challenge by local favourite Padraig Harrington to claim the Irish Open on Sunday.
The 29-year-old carded a six-under-par 65 to end the tournament on 18 under par, two shots ahead of Harrington, who carded a final round 64, and four ahead of England’s Chris Wood and Spain’s Gonzalo Fdez-Castano.
Victory gives the four time European Tour title winner a massive boost in his quest for Ryder Cup selection but the majority of the spectators were left disappointed that Harrington could not claim the 500,000 euro prize.
“It feels really good,” Fisher said. “This is what we play for. I knew it was going to be tough but I just hung in there and stayed patient.
“I could hear the roars so I knew he (Harrington) was making a charge, so the putt on the 17th was huge.
“I had a couple of really good ups and downs on 11 and 12 and it just feels great to come out on top of such a world class field,” he added.
Fisher now moves into an automatic Ryder Cup selection spot, and sent a message to European captain Colin Montgomerie.
“I just want to show Monty that I’m playing well and I want to be one of the star players at the Ryder Cup,” he said.
Fisher came into the final round at the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club with a three-shot cushion, aided by a 61 in the second round, but that quickly evaporated as Australian Richard Green and Harrington piled on the pressure.
Green set the early pace, registering four birdies in the first seven holes, but slipped back after dropping a shot.
Harrington briefly hit the front after notching his fourth birdie at the eighth but was immediately overhauled by Fisher’s eagle at the seventh.
Fisher extended his lead at the ninth and tenth, holing superb putts to go to 16 under and restore his overnight advantage.
Harrington, who won the title at Adare Manor three years ago, refused to give up and pulled himself back to within two shots with a birdie at the 15th.
The comeback was completed at the par-five 16th after a superb approach shot presented a relatively easy eagle opportunity which was gratefully accepted.
However, Fisher kept his focus and played a fantastic approach shot of his own on the 15th to secure a birdie and pull one shot clear.
The key period arrived when Harrington wasted a birdie chance at the 17th just before Fisher took his own birdie opportunity at the 16th to re-establish a two shot advantage which he would refuse to surrender.
Green also birdied the 15th to guarantee a close finish, but had to settle for a share of fifth on 13 under par.
Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy failed to ignite the galleries, ending on three under and two under respectively.
US Open champion McDowell and McIlroy both carded level par 71s while Darren Clarke finished 12th after going around in 69.