Bookies are cleaned out by Padraig's Open victory
Dubliner is first Irish golfer to win British Open for 60 years
BOOKIES have been cleaned out by Padraig Harrington's win at the British Open.
To jubilation across the country, Harrington became the first Irish golfer to win the British Open for 60 years when he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat at Carnoustie in Scotland yesterday.
But the win was bad news for the bookmakers, with many fans betting on the Irishman to triumph. William Hill bookies had Harrington a 28-1 bet at the start of the tournament, losing them more than €3m.
The biggest bet the bookmakers took was a €10,000 wager at 20-1 from a Dublin-based client, who won €200,000 after Harrington's triumph at Carnoustie.
"It was an absolute nightmare of a result for us in Ireland. We've been absolutely cleaned out," said spokesman Tony Kenny.
Surrounded by tricolour-waving Irish fans at Carnoustie, a triumphant Harrington transformed his celebration into a real family affair as the congratulations poured in, including messages from President Mary McAleese and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
He is the first European golfer to secure a major victory since Paul Lawrie on the same course in 1999 and Ireland's first since Fred Daly in 1947.
Hugging his son Patrick and lifting him up his arms, he embraced his wife Caroline and then proudly held a tricolour aloft.
"I'm thrilled," he said as the emotion-charged moment was met with a roar of approval by the fans, many of them Irish. They had watched the 35-year-old Dubliner beat Ryder Cup teammate Sergio Garcia by one shot in a four-hole playoff and a moment of high drama on the 18th, which almost saw victory slip from his grasp.
"If I'd lost I don't know whether I would have played golf again," Harrington said. "This was a fantastic play out in great conditions. This golf course is one of the best in the world."
And even in his proudest moment he had words of praise for Rory McIlroy, from Hollywood, Co Down, who took the silver medal for best amateur. McIlroy, he said, would go on to even greater success in the future.
And about the Spaniard who had almost walked off with the Claret Jug in the playoff for this 136th British Open, he said: "He's only a young lad, his time will come."
The Dubliner admitted that it was not just the Irish fans who had travelled to Britain who had encouraged him. "I want to thank all my fans back in Ireland for their support over the years. I could feel it today."
The nail-biting finish was ensured after Harrington, leading by a shot, pumped his drive down the 18th fairway, only for the ball to bounce along the bridge and plop into the river which crosses the fairway.
It had all been there for the taking for Garcia until his shot ended up in a bunker, missing the vital par he needed to see his own name engraved on the trophy.
President McAleese was the first to convey her congratulations to Harrington, while Labour sports spokesman Jack Wall said: "Padraig Harrington's magnificent victory in the Open without doubt represents one of the greatest days in the history of Irish sport."
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said: "This is an incredible personal achievement and I am delighted for him and his family as I know how close he has come to winning a major on a number of previous occasions.
"I know of Padraig's dedication and single-minded determination to improve his golf. I watched the afternoon's coverage, as I know did thousands of other Irish people, and enjoyed the excitement and send my best wishes to Padraig on this fantastic victory."