Harrington wins British Open again (Lead)

July 21st, 2008 - 1:26 am ICT by IANS  

By V. Krishnaswamy
Southport (Britain), July 20 (IANS) Beware of the wounded golfer, goes the old adage; and Padraig Harrington, playing with an injured wrist, added to the folklore Sunday by sealing his second British Open title in 12 months. That makes it the second Major in a row won by a player who came into the tournament with an injury. Harrington, who admitted he would not even have teed up but for the fact that this was the British Open and he was defending the crown, finally made it look so easy over the final few holes that all the drama before it seemed unnecessary.

The strongest gusts of wind seemed to have been waiting for the leaders to come out on the final day of the 137th British Open. And that saw even the leaders struggling to play par golf, and even that was not easy, but Harrington managed to keep the sails up and find his way to glory.

Beginning the day two shots behind the leader Greg Norman, who disintegrated from the start, Harrington finished the day at one-under 69 and finished the Championships at three-over 283 four shots clear of runner-up Ian Poulter of England and six ahead of Norman (77) and Swede Henrik Stenson (71), who shared the third place at nine-over 289.

Jim Furyk (71) and amateur Chris Wood (72) shared the fifth place at 10-over.

Harrington did not even play a full practice round for the fearing of aggravating his already hurting wrist. And few, including Harrington, would have given him a chance to retain the title he won last year, but neither had Norman or his legion of fans given him a chance to even contend. In the end, Norman only contended, but Harrington became the champion. Again.

Harrington emulated Tiger Woods’ feat of winning twice in a row. Woods, who was missing this year on account of a knee surgery, did that in 2005 and 2006.

Last month, Woods had won the US Open title virtually on one leg and now Harrington made light of his wrist injury, which before the tournament had seemed to derail his plans of defence.

The drama of a final day of a Major can never be seen on the scoreboard, and despite the final margin, it was one of the most gripping British Opens and even the absence of Tiger Woods was a forgotten theme.

For a better part of the day, it seemed anyone in the top half a dozen from Harrington to Ian Poulter to Norman to Henrik Stenson to Jim Furyk and even amateur Chris Wood had a chance to place their hands around the Claret Jug.

But Harrington outclassed the field in the final few holes, with a birdie on the 13th and another on the 15th and finally an eagle on the 17th. His 3-wood second shot from the 17th fairway set him up for an eagle, which he duly landed from seven feet.

If that second shot with 3-wood he flushed through the funnel that the fairway was the shot of the Championships, he added another magical moment with another beauty of an approach shot on the 18th which landed him within eight feet on the closing hole. Another birdie seemed on cards, but it stopped two inches short and Harrington tapped in for a par which gave him a four -under back nine and a winning margin of four, a second Open title which was in sharp contrast to the play-off he went into 12 months ago.

Last year he had come back from the brink but this time he did it very differently. Controlling his emotions very well, he grabbed the field by the scruff and finished a comfortable winner even as other including Poulter (69) did make their bids, too.

Meanwhile ‘Shark’ Norman once again lost his bite when he needed it most and ended at seven-over 77 and dropped to tied third. Not bad for a man playing his first Major since 2005, but still a heart-breaker for one who came so close to his third Open, 15 years after his second.

Norman never gave himself a chance before he came here and went to the extent of saying the Open was like practice for the Senior British Open next week and the Senior US Open the week after.

He had a nightmarish start with three bogeys in a row and then missed a few birdies as they lipped or horse-shoed out.

Harrington oscillated between agony and ecstasy on the final day. He saw fellow Norman crumble at the start and he himself had his problems after a steady beginning.

Norman had three bogeys at the start and Harrington had six pars to begin the day. But then the Irishman ran into three bogeys from seventh to ninth.

But on the back nine, Harrington was a different player. Harrington, starting the day at four-over, was just one-over for 15 holes, despite having dropped three bogeys in a row at one stage.

Playing alongside Harrington, Norman once again seemed to have lost his bite in the crucial final round as he began with a rash of bogeys.

But before all that the man setting the first target for the day was the flamboyant Ian Poulter who brought in a rare under-round of 69 with a nerve-wracking par putt on the 18th. He finished with seven-over to become the clubhouse leader and close the door on all others who had finished earlier than him.

None found it more to their peril than Norman who may have approached the tournament as practice but in the end came close to winning it. What a story it would have been, but in Norman’s case the story has always been of “so near and yet to so far” and it was the eighth time he had led going into the final round, but only once, at the 1986 British Open was he successful in lifting the trophy.

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