Harrington, Kaymer triumph ahead of Open

Padraig Harrington wanted to play in the Irish PGA Championship mainly to get in some links golf and boost his confidence ahead of the British Open.

He achieved both targets in emphatic style, winning the tournament for the third straight year and eyeing a similar feat at the Open, played this year at Turnberry.

Although the Irish event is a side show to the Scottish Open in Loch Lomond, won by Germany’s Martin Kaymer for his second victory in a row, Harrington didn’t want to break a habit that has brought him success for the past two years.

In 2007 and 2008, he stepped off the Irish links to win the Open. With his latest victory in his homeland, Harrington is halfway to repeating his feats of the past couple of years.

Winning an Open title is tough any year and this year will be no different with Tiger Woods returning after last year’s injury-enforced absence to boost the field.

Harrington scored a seven-shot victory over former British Amateur champion Brian McElhinney at the European Club in Brittas Bay.

On the European Tour, meanwhile, Kaymer became the first German to win the Scottish Open when he triumphed at Loch Lomond, continuing his hot streak after last week’s play-off victory over Lee Westwood in the French Open.

Kaymer, 24, closed with 69 to finish at 15-under and beat France’s Raphael Jacquelin and Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Costano by two strokes.

South African Retief Goosen was in the mix going into the last day but he could only manage 73 in the final round as he shared fourth place, on 272, with Soren Kjeldsen, of Denmark, Australian Adam Scott and American Nick Watney.

Kaymer’s form makes him another good tip for the Open title as he goes for three straight victories. But he is wisely playing down his chances, as he said on the European Tour website:

“Everybody asks me about the third win in a row, but we are playing a major next week, and the field is going to be the best we have all year long. I think I’ve been there (Turnberry) before, but my manager, he played there a couple of weeks ago and he said it’s going to be really, really difficult, which is always good – if you play Majors, they should be difficult.”

An interesting name in the top 20 was former Open champion Ernie Els. The South African, who is aiming to get back to the top, was tied for 13th with Geoff Ogilvy, Brian Gay and Miguel Angel Jimenez on 277, eight strokes off the pace.

While the men are looking forward to one of the biggest majors of the season, the women have already completed one of theirs with South Korean Ji Eun-hee triumphing at the US Women’s Open in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Ji nailed a massive 20-foot putt on the 72nd hole to claim a famous victory after Cristie Kerr saw her lead evaporate.

Her final round of 71 gave her a total of even-par 284 and a one-stroke victory over Candie Kung, who closed with 69.

Kerr had held the lead even up to the back nine but her final round of four-over 75 was not enough to ensure the crown. She finished in a tie for third with Kim In-kyung on 286.

Brittany Lincicome was one stroke behind in fifth while Paula Creamer, Ai Miyazato and Suzann Pettersen were joint sixth on 288.

World number one Lorena Ochoa, of Mexico, was tied for 26th on 293. But the day belonged to Ji, who said in an AP article:

“I didn’t even dream about winning this tournament, but, well, I did it, and I think this is going to be one of the most memorable moments in my life.”

On the US PGA Tour, Steve Stricker shot a seven-under-par 64 for a total of 264 for victory at the John Deere Classic in Silvis Illinois.

He was three shots ahead of a trio of players – former US Masters champion Zach Johnson, who shot 66 in his final round, Brandt Snedeker (65) and Brett Quigley.

It was Stricker’s second title this year and the sixth of his career.

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