In 2007 Padraig Harrington claimed his first Claret Jug by beating Spain’s Sergio Garcia in a gripping four-hole playoff at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland. By achieving this Harrington became the first winner of the Open Championship from the Republic of Ireland.
The Dubliner had been a shining light for Irish golf since turning professional in 1996. In that time he was a regular winner on both the European and PGA Tours. But it was this win in 2007 that elevated Harrington to the status of Major winner.
Coming into the 2007 Open Championship, Harrington was in good form having won the Irish Open in May. However he wasn’t being heralded as one of the favourites for the title, with Tiger Woods looking to claim his third victory in a row.
For the opening three days Harrington was playing a solid game but was not making an impression on the leaders. It was Sergio Garcia who was the man leading the pack. He had been the outright leader at the end of play each day. Going into the final round he held a commanding three shot lead and a full six shots ahead of Harrington.
The final round proved to be one of the most exciting endings to an Open Championship for a couple of years but maybe that’s just because there was an Irishman involved. The weather and course were set up for some fantastic play and it didn’t disappoint.
Garcia was becoming very tentative and there were signs of nerves creeping into his game, while Harrington went out and held everything, putting on a tremendous display, pardon the pun.
There were others making considerable moves like Argentina’s Andrés Romero, who held for 10 birdies during the final round and the Aussie Richard Green, who had the best round of the day, shooting a 64 leaving him on -5 after starting the day on +2. But it was Harrington who looked for all the world like the winner with Garcia having his worst round of the week.
Harrington, who held four birdies and an eagle, had a single shot lead before the final hole. But the drama wasn’t over just yet; Harrington shot a double bogey on the final hole after hitting a wayward shot into the water. This left the door open for Garcia, knowing a par would secure him victory.
But the man who had led since day one bogeyed the final hole leaving him tied with Harrington and forcing a four-hole playoff to decide the winner. In hindsight it was the opening hole of the playoff that settled it. Garcia double bogeyed the first and never recovered.
As the evening set in it was the Irishman who held the Claret Jug aloft in front of the gallery of cheering spectators. Harrington would go on to defend the championship twelve months later at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in England, as well as going on to win the PGA Championship capping off a tremendous thirteen-month period.
This year’s Open Championship is underway at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in England.Unfortunately, Harrington failed to make the cut and will watch the rest of the tournament on the TV. Let’s hope he’ll be back again next year.
Peter Lee, Pundit Arena.