Harrington Open champion on dramatic final day
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2007 British Open | Round Four | 23 Jul 2007
It was a week that had it all. It’s what quality golf courses provide and to a large extent what makes this game the great spectacle it can be. Padraig Harrington is the 2007 British Open Champion after winning the four hole playoff over Sergio Garcia by one shot but not before a day full of drama where three players had the outright lead at various stages and many others had their chance at glory.
For both players this would be their first major championship victory and Harrington’s win takes yet another of the game’s leading players out of the equation as far as the discussion around the best players yet to win a major is concerned. Harrington lost his father two years earlier and made mention of him and those who had helped him during a quality post tournament acceptance speech.
Harrington also mentioned in a reference to what had been he worst day of his career as an amateur in 1992 at Carnoustie and just how far he had come since that day with today now being the best day of his golfing life.
“I convinced myself all week that I could win this Championship,” said Harrington after the playoff, “but I never allowed myself to think of winning if that makes sense.” Harrington was responding to a question regarding the importance of putting behind him a disastrous 72nd hole in order that he could focus on a looming playoff.
The first to give an indication of the drama to follow was Australian Richard Green, who played his final round nearly three hours before the final pair of Garcia and Stricker. When Green birdied the 17th, he had moved to an incredible 8 under for the day and six under for the tournament. At that point he was three behind Garcia but given the pressures on those contending for the title some 13 holes behind, Green likely felt that one more birdie might well have him in an enviable position at 7 under.
Green drove it in the left rough at the last and could only pitch out short of the Burn. He eventually made five but, at five under, his chances were not completely forlorn. Green had earned a share of the Carnoustie course record with his last round heroics and was just a par at the 72nd hole away from the equaling the best round ever in Open Championship history. It was by far his best finish in a major (his previous best had been 32nd) but he would not win it on this intriguing and dramatic afternoon.
As Green walked from the 72nd hole Garcia had just taken bogey at the 5th to drop back to 9 under after he had picked up an early birdie at third to move to ten under. Over the next few holes however things would take a dramatic turn. At the 7th Garcia caught a flyer and was just through the green. His chip was not his best and he missed a lengthy par saving putt to slip back to 8 under.
Garcia’s lead had been reduced to two but it was to become just one when the unlikely Andres Romero holed a bunker shot at the 11th to move within one. Romero had finished 8th in this event last year and had put together several good performances on the European Tour in 2007 but he was the bolter amongst these more experienced players. When he found the bushes at the 12th and took double bogey it seemed likely he would disappear from the scene. As quickly as he had dropped back however Romero was back challenging for, then taking the lead. He birded the next four holes and when he holed from 20 feet at the 16th he appeared to have done enough to win. He was, at that point, two ahead of Harrington and Garcia but over the next hour, Carnoustie’s most demanding finishing stretch would determine the fate of all three golfers.
Romero found the right rough at the 17th and somehow hit his second out of bounds. His 4th shot found the green and he took double bogey and was back at 7 under. When he bogeyed the last Romero’s brave challenge was gone but the manner in which he re-bounded from adversity in the middle of his round was very impressive indeed.
As this was happening, Padraig Harrington, who was slowly but surely closing on the leaders got a good break at the par five 14th when his approach from long range kicked right off the bank left of the green and struggled onto the edge of the green. When he holed his 15 foot eagle putt he had moved to 9 under and he led by one over Garcia. Garcia however had the 14th to play and he hit a fine second from 250 yards which was a little unlucky to finish 100 feet past the hole. He two putted for birdie and had joined Harrington in the lead at 9 under and they had the tournament to themselves.
Harrington continued to hit immaculate shots and recorded very solid pars at the 15th, 16th and 17th and as he headed to the 18th tee the Irishman had a one shot lead over Garcia who had just made a par save from off the green at the 16th. As he stood on the 18th tee, Harrington had a one shot lead but he seemed to be very quick with his execution of his tee shot at that hole which has seen plenty of drama previously. Harrington’s tee shot found the water separating the 18th and 17th fairways and as he contemplated his options, his closest rival Garcia and he crossed paths literally on the bridge at the 17th.
Harrington then refocused on the task at hand but found the burn for the second time, this time the water short of the green and he faced the real possibility of the championship slipping from his grasp after enjoying a two shot lead 45 minutes earlier.
Harrington hit his fifth shot to five feet and made a brave up and down for double bogey to trail Garcia by one as Garcia reached the 18th tee. Now the pressure was on Garcia and he chose to hit an iron from the tee. That was a good choice in that he found the fairway but the length that the 18th now plays would now mean a second shot of 250 yards. He did not hit it well and found the front left trap and faced a bunker shot of 25 yards. He hit a good shot to 12 feet behind the hole and needed that putt to win the title. He hit a putt that looked good enough but it caught the left edge and lipped out. Garcia and Harrington were tied and the four hole playoff rule was implemented.
For all intents and purposes the playoff was over almost before it began. Harrington took up where he left off as far as his ball striking was concerned and at the very first hole hit his 7 iron approach 10 feet left of the flag and made birdie while Garcia took bogey from the front bunker and the difference was two. At the par three 16th, the second hole of the playoff, Harrington missed the green while Garcia hit the flagstick with his tee shot but finished 30 feet away.
Both made par and the same again at the 17th which was the third extra hole.
At the last and still with a two shot lead Harrington hit a fairway wood from the tee while Garcia had no choice but to attack with his driver. He missed the fairway but had the advantage in that he could easily reach the green. Harrington layed up short of the burn, taking his chances on Garcia not making birdie. Garcia’s birdie chance again just shaved the hole and left Harrington with a three footer for bogey and a one shot victory. He made it and the 35-year-old had won his first major.
Andres Romero finished third, Richard Green and Ernie Els shared fourth while Hunter Mahan and Stewart Cink finished 6th after Mahan produced a round of 65 the second best of the day after Green’s 64.
While Harrington leaves Carnoustie as a major champion for the first time, Carnoustie itself proved to be a major winner this week. No longer can anybody refer to the great layout as “Carnastie” after the golf course received universal praise from those who played this week. The golf course has returned to its former glory and never again will those who chose to damage her reputation in 1999 be influenced to add unnecessary difficulty to what is one of the fairest yet demanding layouts in major golf.