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Sunday, September 26, 1999 Published at 19:56 GMT 20:56 UK

Harrington gives Europe hope

Padraig Harrington: A gallant effort from the Ryder Cup rookie

Padraig Harrington (Eur) bt Mark O'Meara (US) 1 hole, to cut the US lead to 13-11

Padraig Harrington produced a nerveless final hole to give Europe the first point of a long and agonising final day.

The Irishman's battling performance against a rejuvenated Mark O'Meara at last provided Mark James' team with a piece of inspiration.

After the American had scrambled to halve both the 16th and 17th, he twice hit sand at the last hole to hand the initiative to Harrington.

And the European smacked a brilliant eight-iron into the heart of the green to wrap up a nail-biting triumph.

Harrington then tried to put a brave face on Europe's defeat: "I said at the start of the week that the only thing that mattered was whether we win or lose - but a lot more has mattered than that.

"I have got 11 more friends. I am very disappointed that we lost it but I think the team is now realising that we made some very good friends.

"We will have to get over it and get ready for two years' time."

American assault

O'Meara's form going into the competition was so poor that he was used in only one of the first four matches.

And the US decision to leave him out of most of the opening two days looked like a good one as he lost the first hole - but only after Harrington had holed a speeding 35ft putt for a birdie.

The match was suddenly turned on its head when two consecutive birdies at the short second and par-four third suddenly put O'Meara in front.

But Harrington showed his fighting spirit by holing a birdie putt at the fourth to level it.

The standard of play in the early stages of one of the less glamorous ties was astonishing - and a 25-footer from Harrington took him back into the lead.

The first five holes had all been won by birdies, with no halves.

Two halved holes at last brought some equilibrium to a see-saw contest.

But O'Meara then produced another birdie at the eighth, holing from the edge of the green, to even it up.

Irish inspiration

The rollercoaster action continued at the ninth as Harrington went back in front.

But a missed putt from the Irishman at the 13th made it all-square as the standard of golf began to deteriorate.

When O'Meara sent his third through the green at the 14th, Harrington had a glorious chance to take the lead.

But it took him four to get down from just off the green - and in the end he was relieved to settle for a half.

When O'Meara found the sand in front of the green at the short 16th and Harrington hit his tee shot onto the green, Europe had a great chance.

But, to the delight of the crowds, the veteran American hit a great bunker shot to four feet and honours were shared.

Again there was a glimmer for Europe at the 17th, as O'Meara fluffed his second and left it well short of the green.

But as Harrington claimed par, O'Meara got up and down in superb fashion for yet another half to take the match right to the wire.

Despite his efforts around the greens, O'Meara was still struggling off the tee and at the 18th he found the sand - before skying his second over the green and plugging the ball in another bunker.

Harrington then stepped up to hit a sublime eight-iron to 15ft - and he had two putts to secure victory.

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