All of Ireland -- heck, all of Europe -- rejoiced Sunday when Padraig Harrington broke Europe's eight-year major championship drought, and became the first Irishman to claim the Claret Jug since 1947. And now that he's got one major in his pocket, he promptly announced that he's eager to win more.
By T.J. Auclair, PGATOUR.com Interactive Producer
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- When the 136th edition of the Open Championship ended late in the day on Sunday with unfamiliar splashes of sunshine peeking through a blanket of white clouds, all of Ireland was ready to party like it was 1999.
After all, the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie was the last time a European had won a major. This time it wasn't a question of whether or not a European would win -- instead it was which one would end the major drought at 31?
In the end it was the Emerald Isle's man, Padraig Harrington, defeating Spain's Sergio Garcia in a four-hole playoff. Harrington's win made him the first Irishman to hoist the coveted Claret Jug since Northern Ireland's Fred Daly way back in 1947 at Royal Liverpool.
"My goal was always to win more than one major," said Harrington, who played in 37 majors before winning his first. "If I ever crossed that threshold to win one, I wouldn't feel like that was the end of my road. It was always very important for me to have now that I've won one, I'll try to win another, rather than feeling that this was the pinnacle.
"I'm going to celebrate like it's the pinnacle, but my attitude is, 'Look, I've got other goals now to move on with.' I'm certainly going to enjoy this one as it is, for the foreseeable future. Forever, actually."
Scotland's Paul Lawrie -- the last European to win before Harrington -- won here in 1999 in arguably the strangest finish in major championship history. Sunday's finish wasn't quite that caliber, but it was up there.
Just eight years after Frenchman Jean Van de Velde's painful-to-watch debacle on Carnoustie's straightforward but extremely difficult 499-yard par-4 beast of a closing hole didn't surrender a score better than bogey among the championship's top four finishers. In fact, out of the last six to play the hole, only Steve Stricker made par. He finished in a tie for eighth.
Van de Velde, of course, teed off on the 18th hole in 1999 needing just a double bogey to win. Instead, a holed 10-footer for triple-bogey 7 led to a four-hole playoff with Lawrie and 1997 champ Justin Leonard.
This time around, Harrington was the first to seemingly throw away a shot at adding his name to the list of champions in golf's oldest major. Playing the final hole with a one-shot lead over Garcia at 9 under par, Harrington promptly deposited his ball in the dreaded Barry Burn -- a creek that crosses the fairway and the front of the green on No. 18 -- with his tee shot and his approach, leading to a shocking double-bogey 6.
"If I'd lost, I think it would've been hard to take," Harrington said. "I stayed positive and in the playoff I convinced myself I'd do the business. The up and down on 18 [in the playoff] was important, but if I'd lost I don't know what I'd think about playing golf again."
That double by Harrington in regulation opened the door for Garcia, who then needed a par for his first major triumph. While he kept the ball away from Barry Burn, Garcia found the front greenside-left bunker with his approach shot. His sand shot nestled to within 10 feet of the cup, but the ensuing par putt lipped out on the left edge of the cup, giving Harrington new life.
"On 18 I hit a great tee shot," Garcia said. "When you're one shot in front, hitting a 3-iron into a green where there's danger everywhere, having to wait 15 minutes to hit your shot doesn't help. It doesn't help at all. I wasn't very happy about that."
"I never let myself feel like I'd lost the Open Championship as I sat watching. The one thing, I never, ever had it in my head that I'd lost," Harrington said. "Now, 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. But I never let it sink into me that I had just thrown away the Open Championship on the 18th.
"I sat there in that hut and I was as disciplined as I could be with my focus not to brood or not to, you know, ifs and whats or buts or if I had done that," he added. "I never let it cross my mind that I'd just thrown away the Open. Obviously, if I had just thrown away the Open, if it turned out like that, it would have been incredibly hard to take."
Not surprisingly, No. 18 played as the most difficult hole at Carnoustie during the Open. What is astonishing, though, is that despite the trouble the leaders found, the closing hole actually played at its easiest of the four days in the final round with a scoring average of 4.371.
John Senden got one of the few breaks one will ever see at No. 18 during Saturday's third round. The Australian, who won the John Deere Classic on the PGA TOUR in 2006, hung his second shot well out to the right. It hit a railing against the bottom of a grandstand, ricocheted across the green and then hit -- of all things -- a white out-of-bounds stake to stay in bounds. While it was a fortunate bounce, Senden still double bogeyed the hole.
Only 37.1 percent of players hit the 18th green in regulation on Sunday. There were just two holes on the course where players had a harder time finding the green -- the 499-yard, par-4 12th hole and the 248-yard, par-3 16th.
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Argentina's Andres Romero had the tournament in his grasp until following up a double bogey on No. 17 with a bogey at No. 18. He didn't find Barry Burn, but Romero missed the green to the left after a wayward approach. He failed to save par, settled for 5 and took third place.
"I am happy," said Romero, who was looking to join Angel Cabrera at the U.S. Open as back-to-back major winners from Argentina. "When the best players in the world are here and I played the tournament I played -- I played with the No. 3 player in the world [Jim Furyk] -- I felt very comfortable playing with him and I felt I belonged there."
The 26-year-old Romero had a colorful scorecard, which included 10 birdies, two double bogeys and one bogey.
"I recall having played in Mar del Plata in Argentina in a tournament there, and it was a pretty similar round to this one, so it's happened before," he said.
Little-known Richard Green from Australia, who finished in a tie for fourth place with Ernie Els, tied the course record at Carnoustie with his 7-under-par 64 in the final round. The only blemish of the day for Green was a bogey at No. 18. Otherwise, he would have tied Johnny Miller's final-round 63 at Oakmont in 1973 for the lowest round ever in a major.
Green's poison on 18 was a poor tee shot that found the left rough and forced him to lay up.
"It's a very demanding hole," Green said. "The tee shot -- there's so much trouble there. You really have to focus on what you're going to do and put a good swing on it. I felt like I put a good swing on it and the ball started a yard left and ended up in the rough."
The runner-up finish was particularly difficult for Garcia to swallow. He had been the leader since the first round until making three bogeys in four holes on the front Sunday to let the field back into the tournament.
Harrington took command of the playoff early when he birdied the first hole to Garcia's bogey. Harrington wound up at even par in the four-hole playoff, while Garcia finished 1 over.
"I don't know, I should write a book on how to not miss a shot in the playoff and shoot 1 over," said a frustrated Garcia, who has 12 top 10s in majors, including two second-place finishes. "It's the way it is. I guess it's not news in my life. I just have to move on and hopefully do better next time."