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Victory means a lot for Harrington

Perennial bridesmaid Padraig Harrington was able to bask in the afterglow of his debut PGA Tour victory at the weekend because his journey has been so long and, at times, so frustrating.

The 33-year-old Irishman, who has had to settle for second place 26 times since turning professional in 1995, edged out world number two Vijay Singh in a playoff for the Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens, Florida on Sunday.

"When you have a win that maybe somebody gives it to you a little bit, it's nice when somebody does that, considering how many times I've been close and it's been taken away from me," Harrington told reporters at the Country Club at Mirasol.

The world number six, three times a runner-up on the PGA Tour, finally achieved his breakthrough after sinking a four-foot putt for par at the second extra hole where Fijian Singh missed from three feet.

"I've come a long way to do it, I've got to say," added Harrington, who put himself on track for victory with a blistering nine-under-par 63 in the final round. "I've worked very hard at the game to get to this level.

"I'm sure when I turned pro, nobody would have predicted how far I've gone, and it's days like that that makes it all worthwhile.

"I'm surprised to have done it after four weeks (on the 2005 PGA Tour)and it does mean a lot to me now that I've done it."

Harrington, a regular in the world's top 10 since November 2001, received a congratulatory phone call from an assistant to Irish President Mary McAleese.

"There you go," he added. "President of the country congratulates you, that's not too bad. I'm sure I kept a few pubs open (in Ireland) tonight."

Sunday's triumph -- and a first prize of $990,000 -- provided early reward for Harrington, who decided only two weeks ago to compete full-time on the U.S. PGA Tour.

"I was vaguely in contention at the American Express last year and somebody said to me: 'But you haven't won on the PGA Tour'," said the Irishman, a winner of nine titles on the European Tour.

"And I'm thinking I've won a dozen times, it's not a monkey on my back and I don't want somebody putting that on me. So I decided I would play more over here to try to win an event just to get that monkey off my back.

"When I turned pro, I would have very happily settled to be an absolute journeyman pro on the European Tour. That's where I thought my professional golf tour was going to be.

"So I've come a long way. I've improved my golf game, I've totally torn my swing apart and rebuilt it, and it's days like this, you're reaping the benefits."

Harrington was delighted to become the first Irishman to win a PGA Tour event.

"It does mean a lot to me now that I've done it," he said.

"We've produced a lot of competitive players in Ireland and we've produced more than our fair share of golfers over the years.

"We have seven or eight players on the Tours at the moment, and we've only got four and a half million people living there. So we're doing okay."

Harrington will return to action in next week's Players Championship at Sawgrass, Florida, where he has finished second for the last two years.


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