Padraig Harrington is a winner for the first time in two years, even if the PGA Grand Slam of Golf was only an exhibition.
Four days after Harrington agreed to fill in for British Open champion Ernie Els, he ran off three straight birdies early on the back nine and closed with a 4-under 67 Wednesday for a one-shot win over U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson at Port Royal.
Harrington, a three-time major champion, lost in playoffs at the PGA Grand Slam in 2007 and 2008. He wound up winning on his third try as an alternate in the 36-hole event for the season's major champions.
His last official win was the Johor Open on the Asian Tour in late 2010.
"I think we haven't had a win in a long time and I've got to tell you, they don't come around anywhere near as often as you believe they come around," said Harrington, who finished on 9-under 133 and earned $600,000. "And when you win, you make sure you enjoy it. And it was unfinished business for me, having lost in two playoffs. It was nice to come back and win it now. Yeah, it feels good. I haven't won in a while, so you know, it's nice. Winning is a habit and it's nice to do it."
Harrington agreed last Saturday to replace Els, who has a minor ankle injury. The Irishman had been scheduled to play the BMW Masters in Shanghai this week. He became only the second European to win this event, joining Ian Woosnam in 1991.
Simpson lost ground after the turn and never caught up, despite a bogey-free 65 that left him one shot behind.
Masters champion Bubba Watson, whose four birdies were offset by two bogey and a double bogey, had a 71. He tied for third — or tied for last, considering it was only a four-man field — with Keegan Bradley, who had a 67. Bradley replaced PGA champion Rory McIlroy, who is playing in Shanghai.
Simpson said the turning point was after the turn, when Harrington ran off three straight birdies starting at the 11th.
"I had some good looks and played them even, and he played them 3 under," Simpson said. "I had two putts I hit in a row that were a foot out. The ball is in the middle and you think it's going to stay straight. Kind of gut-wrenching those two holes, to have those looks and thinking I'm making birdie."