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'Monster' can't bully suddenly unbeatable Harrington
By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. - Oakland Hills Country Club might be known as, "The Monster," but Ireland's Padraig Harrington wasn't about to be scared or bullied in the 90th PGA Championship.
With an incredible 8-under mark over the final 36 holes thanks to matching 4-under-par 66s, Harrington posted a 3-under 277 total for a two-shot win over Sergio Garcia and Ben Curtis on Sunday for the Irishman's second major win in three weeks.
Interestingly, it seemed as though Harrington was ready to throw in the towel after a 4-over 74 in the second round put him at 5 over for the tournament.
"I went back and had a look at it and had a discussion with my trainer at home; it was possible that I was dehydrated," said Harrington about his lackluster start. "And that's what was the lack of coordination. So it gave me something to focus on. I focused on Friday evening and Saturday, and all through Saturday and Sunday in rehydrating myself. And at least whether that was the cause or not, whether it was it might have been tiredness, as well.
"But at least I had something tangible that I could actually pin it on and try and put some effort into it and gave me the belief that if I can get my hydration right, basically my coordination would come back," he continued. "And whether it was the answer or not, it certainly helped me focus on something, and that was the important part of it."
Was it ever.
When push came to shove over the final three holes at Oakland Hills on Sunday, a well-hydrated and inspired Harrington played them in 1 under, while Garcia and Curtis were 1 over. That was the difference.
Just when it was getting very interesting on the back nine, Garcia ran into another all-too-familiar major demise.
The Spaniard hit a picture-perfect approach shot to the 15th green that took one short bounce, hit the top of the cup and the pin before drifting 10 feet from the hole. Without hitting the pin, he should have had a short birdie putt. Instead, Garcia had to settle for a two-putt par.
"Funny enough, I think that Peter Kostis told me it hit the pin and went in the hole and came out to about 10 feet," Garcia said. "So I went and asked him because I saw the ball jump a little bit to the left and I thought, you know, I wanted to know if it was on the green or not and he told me what happened."
It seemed like things might completely unravel for Garcia on No. 16 after his approach shot there hit dry land just short and right of the green, only to bounce backwards into the water. He showed resiliency though, taking his drop and getting up and down for bogey.
The only problem is that while Garcia was making par, Harrington's putter was catching fire. It was looking like you could pencil Harrington in for a bogey at 16, but instead he rolled home a tricky 12-footer for par to make it a three-way tie at 2 under just seconds after Curtis missed a par putt on No. 15.
On the daunting par-3 17th, Harrington stuffed a long-iron to within 10 feet of the back-right hole location. Not to be outdone, Garcia answered with a dreamlike response, sticking it to within four feet of the hole.
Harrington sent a roar through the course when his 10-footer dropped for birdie. Moments later, Garcia lipped out his birdie putt.
"I feel like I played well enough to win probably more than two majors throughout my career," Garcia said. "Unfortunately, it hasn't happened. That doesn't mean that I'm not on the right track. So I'm looking forward to the challenges, and I just am going to keep giving it my best, and it's just a matter of time."
Harrington capped off his remarkable win by holing a 16-foot putt for par on No. 18, to claim the first victory at a PGA Championship by a European since Scotland's Tommy Armour in 1930.
The duel with Garcia was reminiscent of their battle at Carnoustie last summer. Harrington said that while he did feel a bit of an edge, it wasn't just because of that memorable week at Carnoustie.
"You have get yourself away from that," he said. "[Garcia's chance of winning a major] It's a bit like the Greg Norman story at Birkdale. It's a great story, but you can't let yourself get drawn into it, and you've got to do your own thing. So probably not an edge because of Carnoustie, but an edge because I won at Carnoustie and I won at Birkdale."
The silver-lining for Curtis was that his tie for second was enough to earn him an automatic spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
"I guess if you're going to finish second and they tell you that you qualify for the Ryder Cup, I think that you'll take it," he said. "It almost is a victory in itself. It was a goal that I set. I wasn't going to worry about it if I was right on the number and close to making. But I feel like I can help this team, and I know a lot of the guys on the European side, as well, but I think it's going to be good fun."
Over the last six majors played, Harrington has proven there is probably only one player in the world that is better down the stretch at the majors than he is. That, of course, is world No. 1 Tiger Woods, who has missed the last two majors to nurse a knee injury.
"I know I love the idea of the back nine of a major on a Sunday," said Harrington with the Wanamaker Trophy glistening by his side. "I love it so much that I'm actually disappointed I'm seven months away from the next major, and I don't know what I'm going to do.
"I've really focused hard on the majors the last two years. My whole schedule is built around majors. And definitely I've turned up at other events, and unless I get into contention, you know, sometimes it feels like a race, like a sprint, whereas a major feels like a marathon. I feel like I can be patient and take my time. And I love the feeling of knowing that it's going to come down to the back nine; it's going to come down to who can do it under pressure in the last nine holes."
For the second time in as many majors, it was Harrington.