29 October 2007 12:45
Padraig Harrington stumbled with a closing 74 at the Royal Golf Dar Es-Salam golf course in Rabat on Sunday, but it was enough to give him the Hassan 11 Trophy.
The reigning Open Champion, who also took away the first prize of $150,000 and was presented with a ceremonial gold dagger in his 4th win this season and his first on the African continent, began the final day leading by six shots, but struggled with his focus earlier on.
It was only after being jolted when Ryder Cup team-mate and playing partner Darren Clarke got to within two shots at the 11th hole, that he managed to pull himself together
At the very next hole Harrington took a five wood out and hit his second shot at the 12th to within 10 feet for a birdie - and never looked back.
"When I dropped to only two ahead," he told the Independent.IE, "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."
Perhaps even more important than his victory was the fact that it put him in the right frame of mind heading into this week's season-ending show-down at he Volvo Masters at Valderrama in Spain.
The Irish star said: "You can't beat a win and I'm looking forward to getting out there at Valderrama later this week.
"I know that either Justin (Rose) or myself need to finish in top-three (to move ahead of current leader Ernie Els) and whoever manages that will be the 2007 European Number One.
"But it's nice now to be added to the Hassan 11 honour roll of champions and I'm really pleased to win on the African continent as I haven't done that before."
That Moroccan roll of honour features some of the games biggest names including fellow major winners Billy Casper (1973, 1975), Lee Trevino (1977), Vijay Singh (1991), Payne Stewart (1992, 1993), Nick Price (1995) and David Toms (1999).
Casper, who has been coming to Morocco since the inaugural event in 1971, was among a few thousand gathered around the 18th to applaud Harrington, the first-ever Irish winner.
India's Jeev Singh, the defending champion at Valderrama this week, should have finished tied-third with England's Simon Dyson behind Harrington and Clarke, but he disqualified himself after handing in his score card.
Singh hit a shot from the 11th fairway on Saturday whilst playing the 12th hole, but had not been informed by his caddy that the 11th was out-of-bounds.