Harrington Joins Major League of Champions

If he hadn’t done so already at last month’s British Open, Ireland’s Padraig Harrington sealed his status as a true golfing heavyweight with his epic and draining victory at the USPGA Championship at Oakland Hills.

Battling through 36 strength-sapping holes on the final day, and then scrapping with Spain’s Sergio Garcia in a tussle reminiscent of their 2007 Open play-off, Harrington won his second straight major title by two strokes.

Rain had washed out most of Saturday, which meant the players had to fight through two rounds on Sunday.

Harrington went into the third round seemingly out of the reckoning, having shot a 74 in the second round to follow up his opening 71.

However, he saved his best for last with successive four-under-par 66s to complete the 72 holes in three-under 277, two ahead of Garcia and former Open winner Ben Curtis.

Colombia’s Camilo Villegas and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson were tied for fourth at one-over 281, with Steve Flesch along on 282.

Phil Mickeslon and Andres Romero both ended on 284 for joint seventh. India’s Jeev Milkha Singh, the first-round leader, and Korean Charlie Wi, who emerged as a contender on the final day, had to be satisfied on 285, along with Alastair Forsyth and Justin Rose.

But the day belonged to Harrington, who has done what no other European has achieved since Scotland’s Tommy Armour in 1930, and that is lift the Wannamaker Trophy, to go with the two Claret Jugs that he has already won.

Harrington himself was totally mystified by his ability to overcome his Open “hangover” and claim two straight major titles, last achieved by Tiger Woods in 2006. He said in a RTE Sports article:

“It is totally different to The Open. I was very confident in The Open. Here I hit some of the wildest golf shots ever hit on a golf course on Friday. In the end it was a lot of sheer willpower.”

Just as he had at Carnoustie in 2007, Garcia played a major role in ensuring an enthralling conclusion to the 90th PGA Championship.

That won’t make him feel any better, though, as the end result was the same, with Harrington all smiles and Garcia dejected, having come so close again to winning his first major title.

Garcia effectively lost it at the 16th when he hit an approach into the water. Still recovering, he missed fluffed an easy putt on the 17th to allow Harrington to take control. Said Garcia:

“If a couple of things had gone differently, we would have been talking differently. But they went Padraig’s way, not mine.”

Still, it would have taken some courage to beat Harrington. These were not easy conditions and two 66s was an amazing feat, even for the absent Tiger Woods.

Also, it was more than just a two-man race with Curtis, the 2003 Open champion, going into the fourth-round with a one-stroke lead over Stenson and American JB Holmes, who had put himself into contention at the halfway stage.

And indeed, Curtis appeared to be blowing away the opposition as he went four under after only six holes. But he came back down to earth around the turn with three bogeys that brought he field back.

Harrington was fairly subdued in the early holes of the fourth round following his sizzling third-round 66.

A bogey on the fifth was followed immediately by a birdie. It was after the turn that he really started to come to life.

He fired birdies on the 10th, 12th and 13th to stride alongside Garcia at three under as the tournament took on a matchplay feel.

Then came the decisive 16th, where Garcia’s ball fell in the drink with his second shot after it bounced off the green. Harrington fell into a greenside bunker and then blasted 25 feel past the hole.

The Irishman then holed the as Garcia bogeyed and both players were involved with a three-way tie with Curtis.

Garcia then lipped out on the 17th as Harrington nailed the putt, while Curtis fell one behind. On the final hole, Harrington, putting first, parred to ensure victory and Garcia, knowing the title was beyond reach, only managed a bogey.

One Response to “Harrington Joins Major League of Champions”

  1. Mara says:

    Why is Woods always mentioned? He is not playing! Talk about those who are in the current tournament; their achievements; and sometimes their blunders.

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