Wednesday 21 August 2019

Four champions and nine near misses

Finest hour: Harrington wins his first Open title in 2007. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Finest hour: Harrington wins his first Open title in 2007. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Four champions hail from Irish shores, but the stories of those who merely caressed the Claret Jug are every bit as important to the fabric of The Open as those who lifted it in triumph.

It was late on Sunday afternoon at Carnoustie in 2007, and Pádraig Harrington had somehow got up and down from 47 yards for a closing double-bogey six - miraculously banishing all thoughts of the two balls he had just dumped in the Barry Burn on his way up the 72nd hole.

He was brushing putts on the practice green when Sergio Garcia's closing bogey gave him a second chance and as he awaited the call for the playoff, he turned to his sports psychologist Dr Bob Rotella and imparted some reassuring words, as if it were the good doctor, not the Dubliner, who was about to head in to battle.

"I'm good," he told Rotella as a parting shot before striding off to the first tee for a four-hole playoff. "When you see me out in the playoff, and you are going to think I'm waving, but I am raising the Claret Jug to the sky."

Not only did Harrington beat Garcia and go on to retain the title in far more spectacular and convincing fashion at Royal Birkdale in 2008, but he also broke down barriers for Irish golf by bridging a 60-year gap to Fred Daly's great victory at Royal Liverpool in 1947.

Without Harrington's pioneering wins, who knows if Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy or Darren Clarke would have followed suit with six major wins of their own over the next seven years.

Daly was the pathfinder. But there were also many other close calls before Harrington's back to back wins and those subsequent victories by Clarke and McIlroy.

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