England's Ross Fisher proved himself under pressure on Sunday, winning the 3 Irish Open in record-equalling style -- despite all that Padraig Harrington threw at him.
From three behind, Harrington might have thought a closing 7-under-par 64 would seal his national title for the second time in four years. But Fisher, having lost the six-stroke lead he held in the third round, responded with a 65 to take his fourth European Tour title by two shots.
The 29-year-old's 18-under 266 aggregate, matched the tournament record set nine years ago by Colin Montgomerie -- and with it Fisher climbs all the way from 13th to sixth in the race for places in Montgomerie's Ryder Cup side.
"It just feels great to come out on top against such a world-class field," said Fisher after receiving the trophy. "I could hear the roars and knew Padraig was making a charge. I just tried to stay patient and this is what we play for -- we want to give ourselves a chance and I am no different.
"I don't know if I have done enough (to clinch a Ryder Cup debut) yet, but there are two more big weeks coming up and I just want to show Monty I am playing well."
The WGC Bridgestone Invitational starts on Thursday in Akron, Ohio, and after that comes the final major of the season, the PGA Championship, at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
Harrington still has not won for two years and remains outside the all-important top nine on the Ryder Cup points table, but his strong finish leaves him far nearer to it than he was. The Dubliner, who has now had 27 second places on the circuit, produced some spectacular shots and rated his up and down from a plugged lie in a bunker at the 12th "one of the best ever for me."
"Overall, I had a lot of chances. I've been comfortable with my game for a while, but I just have to trust it a little more,” he added. "I should not get so stressed -- I just have to let it happen a bit more."
Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Englishman Chris Wood shared third place on a day when there were no fewer 14 changes at the top of the leaderboard. Wood, Australian Richard Green and Italian Francesco Molinari had an early taste of it and with four birdies in his first seven Harrington joined the fun.
But Fisher, round in a course-record 61 on Friday, sank an 18-foot eagle putt at the seventh, holed from similar range on the ninth and then started for home with an 8-iron to four feet. That put him three clear, but it was game on again when Harrington birdied the 15th and made a 10-foot eagle attempt at the 519-yard 16th.
Fisher had the same two holes to come, though, birdied them both and then to his immense relief saved par from eight feet on the next after giving his first putt far too much pace.
"Making 4 there was huge," he stated. "If I had come up the last only one ahead, it might have been a different story."
With a closing par, he could celebrate not only with his wife and one-year-old daughter Eve, but also with new caddie Phil Morbey on his birthday.
Molinari's slide from second to eighth with a 72 could cost him dear in the last month of Ryder Cup qualifying -- he drops from seventh to eighth on the table -- while Darren Clarke finished bogey-bogey for the second day in a row and ended up in a tie for 12th.
Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, already safely on the team, were 31st and 35th, but two-time PGA Tour winner Justin Rose still has a lot of ground to make up after taking only 44th place.
And just three days after England's Robert Rock was disqualified for a scorecard blunder, Scotland's Marc Warren did the same thing on Sunday. As with Rock -- tied for the lead at the time -- Warren didn’t see that playing partner Mark Foster had put him down for a birdie 3 at the 13th and par 4 on the next instead of the other way round.
At least the former World Cup winner was not on the leaderboard at the time. He had scored a closing 70 for 2 under and was not in the top 30, but it still cost him about $30,000.