Open Champion Padraig Harrington heads to this week’s European No1 showdown in the best possible form after capturing the Hassan II Trophy in Morocco.

Harrington, above, established several career firsts in winning by three strokes, including four victories in a season and a first on the African continent despite a sometimes agonising last round on the Royal Golf Dar Es-Salam course in Rabat.

He began the final day leading by six but struggled with his focus before being jolted into taking control when playing companion and close friend Darren Clarke got to within two shots at the 11th hole.


“I feel very good to have won but it’s a different sort of emotion when you are leading and you are expected to win


Padraig Hamilton

Harrington countered brilliantly by hitting a five-wood second shot at the 12th hole to 10 feet for birdie and from there a 21st victory toast seemed never in doubt, with Harrington scoring a birdie on the last.

The Dubliner won a first prize cheque of £75,000 and was presented with a ceremonial gold dagger.

“I feel very good to have won but it’s a different sort of emotion when you are leading and you are expected to win,” said Harrington. “But when I dropped to only two ahead that’s when I was spurred on because I played a great shot into 12 and apart from a poor shot at 16, I managed to play good golf for those last seven holes.

“That tends to be the story of my golf because when I’m pushed into things I tend to play a whole lot better.”

As was the case in July when Harrington headed to Carnoustie with victory in the Irish PGA, he will be in good spirits when arriving in Spain today for this week’s season-ending Volvo Masters.

“I’m looking forward to getting out there at Valderrama later this week,” he said. “I know that either Justin Rose or myself need to finish top-three and whoever manages that will be European No1.”

SAM LITTLE fought back tears as he secured his European Tour card at the last attempt in the Mallorca Classic.

All looked lost for the Londoner three weeks ago when he lay outside the top 170 on the Order of Merit with only three events left to climb into the top 117 and avoid an immediate return to the qualifying school.

But the 32-year-old was joint seventh in the Madrid Open to qualify for the Portugal Masters and, after finishing 34th there, produced the performance of his career to finish second behind France’s Gregory Bourdy at Pula Golf Club.