Englishman Ross Fisher held his nerve and an overnight lead to win the Irish Open by two strokes and seriously boost his chances of appearing at the Ryder Cup.
Fisher held off a strong challenge from fellow Ryder Cup hopeful Padraig Harrington by carding a six under par round of 65 to finish at 18 under thanks to two birdies in the last four holes.
The victory was the 29-year-old’s first on the European Tour this year but follows a series of impressive displays, including a runners-up place at the BMW International Open and an eighth at the Scottish Open.
The world number 20 now looks a tempting 50/1 to win the season’s final major, the US PGA at Whistling Straits, a tournament Fisher finished tied-19th in last year.
Three-time major winner Harrington was victorious in the 2008 US PGA but the Irishman couldn’t win on home soil this time.
The 2007 Irish Open champion shot a scorching 64 on Sunday, including five birdies and an eagle, but could only finish second – a creditable result that improves his hopes of playing for Europe at the Ryder Cup in October.
That’s the target Fisher now has in his sights, with victory at Killarney seeing him jump seven places in the Ryder Cup rankings and into one of the automatic qualifying spots for Europe’s team.
He is now firmly focussed on making Colin Montgomerie’s side for the clash with the United States at Celtic Manor in Wales, which the Europeans are 8/15 to win.
Harrington still has some work to do to guarantee himself a spot on Montgomerie’s team but, if he misses out on an automatic pick, his performance this week can only have helped his chances of a wildcard selection.
“I could hear the roars and knew Harrington was making a charge,” said Fisher. “The putt on the 17th was huge. It was nice to have a two-shot gap going down the last.”
“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.”
Rory McIlroy, a cert to be at the Ryder Cup, finished a disappointing tied-35th at the Irish Open, while Francesco Molinari, an outside bet for Montgomerie’s team, came a decent eighth place. The pair are 16/1 and 100/1 to win the US PGA, which starts on August 12th.