Harrington Rides Emotional Roller Coaster to Make Open History

The emotions stirred by Major tournaments in golf can be intense to the extreme. How a pro performs under pressure can not only change his life but also his character.

Such was the weight of a three-foot bogey putt in the British Open play-off that Irishman Padraig Harrington faced on the 18th at Carnoustie, a course that once reduced Frenchman Jean Van De Velde from a confident, driver-wielding potential champion to a shoeless comedian who had lost his way, probably forever.

Harrington knew that chances to win the British Open at one of the tournament’s most unforgiving courses come just once in a lifetime, And that to only a select few. He had the chance to be the chosen one on this day, even though Spaniard Sergio Garcia, was in a position to take it away from him.

As Harrington was quoted by AP as saying:

“I know it was only a short putt, but the emotions of it … I couldn’t believe it as it was rolling in from right in the middle of the hole, and I’m thinking, ‘The Open champion’. If Sergio parred the last and I did lose, I think I would have struggled to come back out and be a competitive golfer. It meant that much to me.”

Indeed, it would to anyone when it comes to winning a Major during the era of Tiger Woods, the champion in 2005 and 2006 who dropped out of contention after the second round.

Harrington was forced into the play-off after a double-bogey on the 18th, which included two shots that ended up at the bottom of the famous Barry Burn that Van De Velde almost dared to wade in when the Open was last played at Carnoustie in 1999.

Harrington became the first Irishman in 60 years to win the Open and also ended Europe’s long drought in the tournament.

For Garcia, his defeat was Van De Velde-esque in slow motion, because it came over 18 holes rather than one. The Spanish hope held a three-stroke overnight lead but saw it disappear.

He closed with a 73 for a total of seven-under-par 277, same as Harrington, who had 67. Argentina’s Andres Romero, who at one time held a two-shot lead, finished alone on third after his closing 67 gave put him one stroke behind the leaders.

Tied for fourth on 279 were Australia’s Richard Green, who finished with a brilliant 64, and South Africa’s former champion Ernie Els (69).

Harrington had virtually won the play-off at the first hole when he took three for birdie while Garcia needed five.

The pair matched each other for the next two holes with three and four and, although the Spaniard made par on the final hole, Harrington’s bogey was enough for a one-stroke play-off victory.

Garcia, who burst on to the scene as a teenager, now needs to go away and get his head straight. He has too much talent to let the mental anguish of squandering a big lead at the British Open affect his career.

A true champion is one who embraces disappointment. Harrington, though, will be happy enough to embrace the Claret Jug.

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