SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda -- Padraig Harrington held off a determined challenge from Webb Simpson Wednesday and finally won the PGA Grand Slam of Golf at the third time of asking.
The Irishman's 4-under par 67 took him to 9-under for the 36-hole event, one shot clear of Simpson, who carded a course-record equaling second round 6-under 65.
2012 PGA Grand Slam of Golf
Simpson will point to a run of three holes at the start of the back nine, where Harrington rattled off consecutive birdies at 11, 12, and 13 to move to 10-under, four shots clear at that stage, as the turning point.
In contrast, the U.S. Open champion played that stretch at even par and two missed short putts at 11 and 12 proved crucial.
"I think the turning point for us was kind of the 10 through 13 stretch," he said. "I had some good looks and played them even, and he played them 3-under.
"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."
Simpson ate away at Harrington's lead down the stretch and birdies at 14 and 17 closed the gap to just two shots.
The Irishman though made putts when he needed to, and a nerveless eight-footer for par on 16, which was accompanied by a pumped fist from Harrington, effectively sealed the win.
Harrington even had the luxury of bogeying the last, the first of his round. Reaching the green in two, coupled with a pulled approach from Simpson, left him with a comfortable three-putts for victory.
"I think things might have been different on 15 if Webb holed his putt," said Harrington. "I obviously only had a two-shot lead coming into 16, which is a treacherous hole.
"But yeah, it was a bonus to sit on a three-shot lead. And then once I holed my putt on 16, I felt it was all over at that stage. It was just a question of getting the last two holes played without too much harm, too much damage being done.
"It's always nice to have three putts to win a tournament, and if you have three, take them."
The win helped Harrington erase the memories of his past two losses, but he expressed surprise at being only the second European, after Ian Woosnam in 1991, to win the event.
"It was unfinished business for me, having lost in two playoffs, it was nice to come back and win it now," he said. "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.
"I'm very surprised that only one guy has ever won before me. Surprised and very happy about that. I've set a few European records, [it's] not quite a record being the second guy, but by Christmas I'll make it into some sort of record.
"You know what, I'm surprised that that's the case given there's been some great Europeans and I'm sure they have played many times, but I'm just happy to be the winner this time."
Harrington's comfort levels at the end were helped in no small part by Bubba Watson's meltdown on the back 9. The Masters winner only trailed Harrington by two shots at the start of the round, and was still well in contention at the turn.
Birdies at 2, 5, and 7 were only offset by a bogey at 4, when he found two bunkers, and at 5-under, Watson was only two shots back. A birdie at 10 brought him to within 1, but that was as close as he got.
Harrington, solid on the front 9, the highlight of which was a 40-footer for birdie at the par-3 8th, suddenly got hot on the back and Watson couldn't stay in touch.
His challenge was effectively ended when he drove his ball into the only tree on the side of the 15 and had to take an unplayable when it wouldn't come down. A bogey was followed by a double-bogey at the par-3 16 when his first tee shot went into the sea.
"You know, it was just a good day," said Watson, who shot a 1-over 72 and finished 3-under for the two days. "Just got some loose swings trying to create some stuff when Pádraig was playing so well. Stuck in the tree and chose the wrong club on 16. Made a quick double there and I was out of it."
In the end, Watson finished in a tie for third with Keegan Bradley, whose second round 67 left him wondering what might have been.
The defending champion's 72 on Tuesday was always going to make life difficult, and it wasn't until an eagle 2 on 14 that he broke away from yo-yoing between level-par and 1-over.
"No matter who you are or whether you're in a tournament, watching your ball go in the hole is still a lot of fun," said Bradley. "I just wish yesterday, if I just got off to a decent start, I think I would have been right there. But Pádraig played great. It's great to play alongside a champion like him and learn and see what he does. You know, I'm happy for him."