By John Manley
Padraig Harrington appeared to be on cruise control after the third round of the Benson & Hedges International at The Belfry in Birmingham, England. He finished Saturday’s action with a five-shot lead over Phillip Price and Jose Maria Olazabal. It was another four shots back to amateur Adam Scott in fourth place. The tournament was Harrington’s to lose.
So it came as something of a shock when Olazabal lifted the winning trophy after a final-round 66. As for Harrington, it wasn’t anything he did on Sunday that derailed his aspirations. Rather, it was something he didn’t do after Thursday’s first round — he didn’t sign his scorecard. The error wasn’t discovered until minutes before Harrington was to tee off on Sunday, at which point he was disqualified.
Harrington explained the goof as a mixup in which playing partner, Michael Campbell, inadvertently signed Harrington’s card, in addition to Jamie Spence, who was obliged to sign as the marker. Should Harrington have continued on to victory, he would have earned first prize money of $252,000. He viewed the turn of events stoically.
"The rules are there to protect everyone, so that’s how it goes," Harrington said. "Because of my accountancy training, I’m very meticulous, but when you see two signatures, you think that’s it."
Harrington shot an opening round 71, and assumed the lead on Friday after firing a 69. He then scorched The Belfry with a course record 64 on Saturday, a mark that will disappear into oblivion along with the rest of his accomplishments over the three-day period.
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Paul McGinley finished tied for 18th place at 2-over-par 290 (73-71-72-74), which was 15 strokes behind Olazabal. Darren Clarke was another shot back at 291 (78-72-72-69), good for a 22nd-place tie.
The cut was established at 151. Unable to meet that mark were Eamonn Darcy, 152 (75-77), Gary Murphy, 154 (76-78), Philip Walton, 154 (79-75), and Ronan Rafferty, 160 (79-81).
Richard Coughlan finished the Hooters Classic in a three-way tie for second place. The County Offaly man was two strokes off Mark Wilson’s winning score of 277. Coughlan’s nine-under 279 consisted of rounds of 71, 69, 68 and 71. The event was contested at the Royal Oaks Golf and Country Club in Maryville, Tenn. Coughlan earned $5,833.33.
This tour pitched its tents at the Tulfarris Golf Club in County Wicklow for the AIB Irish Seniors Open. Bruce Fleisher, who has dominated the American circuit, came away with a three-shot victory over George Burns and Bob Shearer. Fleisher shot seven-under 209 (70-67-72) for 54 holes.
The tournament was noteworthy as Shearer established a course record with his final round 66, which featured an eagle on the 501-yard 15th hole.
Furthermore, Tommy Horton, who has topped the Tour’s Order of Merit for the last four years, missed the cut for the first time in his stint as a senior.
Christy O’Connor, Jr. was the low Irishman. His one-over-par 217 (75-71-71) was good for an eighth-place tie. Liam Higgins, the first round leader, settled for a 15th place finish, with a score of 219 (69-76-74). A stroke behind Higgins at 220 were Eddie Polland (74-72-74) and David Jones (76-71-73).