Harrington Overcomes Injury to Win Second Straight Open Title

There is something about injuries and winning a major this season. Padraig Harrington was only 75 per cent confident of completing 72 holes of a brutal British Open at Royal Birkdale because of a wrist injury.

In the end, it was not percentages but sheer guts, talent and determination that not only allowed him to last all four days, but helped him win his second straight Open title.

As for the wrist? Well, that was strong enough to raise the Claret Jug, having earlier helped him to a final round of one-under 69 for a total of three-over-par 283 and what turned out to be a comfortable four-stroke victory over England’s Ian Poulter, who also shot 69.

There was only going to be one fairytale at a windy Birkdale and the story of Greg Norman, attempting an unlikely major at 53, faded in the first three holes of Sunday’s fourth round as three straight bogeys wiped out his overnight two-shot lead.

Norman finished tied for third on nine over with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson after closing with 77. Stenson had a 71.

Jim Furyk and English amateur Chris Wood tied for fifth on 10 over, two ahead of a group of nine on 12 over 292. This included South African Ernie Els, whose closing 69 made him the only golfer apart from Harrington to shoot under par more than once in the tournament.

It was only an opening round 80 that stopped Els from being a contender.

Harrington became the first European in more than 100 years to win back-to-back Open titles, having enjoyed his first taste of major success last year at Carnoustie.

While Norman was a sentimental favourite, there was no lack of applause and kudos for the 36-year-old Irishman, who said in an AP article:

“I did say to him (Norman) coming down 18 that I was sorry it wasn’t his story that was going to be told. I did feel that, but I wanted to win myself. In this game, you have to take your chances when you get them. Obviously, winning a major puts you in a special club. Winning two of them puts you in a new club altogether.”

The Australian, a two-time Open champion, is only a part-time golfer these days, devoting more time to his course design business and his sometime appearances on the Senior Tour.

He also recently got married to former American tennis great Chris Evert. The last time he was in contention for a major was in 1996 when he famously collapsed in the last round at the US Masters, losing a six-shot lead and allowing Nick Faldo to sneak his sixth major.

As everyone knows, this is not the first time Norman has fallen in the final round with a major within his grasp. Will this go down as a choke? Maybe.

But more likely, it will be remembered as a time when Norman turned back the clock to entertain thousands on the course and millions watching on television. He said:

“I walk away from here disappointed, but with my head held high, because I hung in there. Where does it rank in those? Probably not as high as some of the other ones. Quite honestly, I’m sure I surprised a lot of people.”

Despite having a two-shot lead going into the par-five 17th, Harrington knew it was a great chance for Norman to get back into it with an eagle. As it turned out, Harrington nailed an eagle himself thanks to a glorious five-wood that stopped four feet away from the hole.

That gave him a four-stroke lead and pretty much sealed the title. Harrington admitted before teeing off on Thursday that his wrist injury would have forced him to withdraw from any other tournament. On the contrary, it turned out to be an excellent red herring for him, removing the pressure of being the defending champion.

“It was a great distraction for me. It took a lot of pressure off me. It took a lot of stress off me. The fact that I didn’t play three practice rounds like normal for a major was a big bonus. I was very fresh going into the weekend, and this 36 holes was a real battle.”

One Response to “Harrington Overcomes Injury to Win Second Straight Open Title”

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