Harrington eyes greater glory after repeat win

By Associated PressJuly 22, 2008, 4:00 pm
Open ChampionshipSOUTHPORT, England -- Padraig Harrington never tires of reading the fine print on the silver claret jug, and as he stood up from a table Monday morning at Royal Birkdale, he slowly turned golfs oldest trophy to see his name on consecutive rows.
 
There were 126 names. Its also worth noting what wasnt on the jug.
 
I dont think this champion has anything to worry about with asterisks etched next to his name, Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson said. He proved that last year.
 
Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington will go for three consecutive Open wins next year at Turnberry. (Getty Images)
The bluster at the start of this British Open was whether the winner should get full credit because Tiger Woods couldnt play. That was long forgotten after Harrington shot a 32 over his final nine holes in 30 mph wind to follow Woods as a back-to-back champion.
 
The only question is how much more the Irishman can achieve.
 
Winning the first major last year the reflection on that was, Guys have won one major. Lets try to set yourself apart and win two, Harrington said Monday after his four-shot victory moved him up to No. 3 in the world. Now that Ive got two, Im in a different club now. Whats the next club? I will have time to reflect and reset some new goals. Youve got to keep pushing.
 
The next target presumably is winning a major other than the British Open, and his next chance is coming quickly. The PGA Championship starts in three weeks at Oakland Hills outside Detroit.
 
But that can wait.
 
Harrington took a phone call from Mary McAleese, the president of Ireland, and was still sorting through more than 100 text messages. The first sip from the claret jug was John Smiths Smooth Bitter, just like last year, although the champion was pleased that when the party ended about 4 a.m., and he emptied the jug, he tasted a few drops of claret.
 
This wasnt as exhilarating as his playoff victory at Carnoustie last year over Sergio Garcia, perhaps because that was his first major and the engraver had to wait until the final putt before going to work.
 
This time around was a more determined effort. It was more satisfying and in many ways more rewarding, Harrington said. To have done it back-to-back is very special. To have two majors is very special. But I think what I take most from it is going out in the last group and performing when I needed to.
 
Playing golf in the final round of a major when its put up to you is a nice feeling.
 
The presence of 53-year-old Greg Norman with a one-shot lead going to the back nine and Ian Poulter making a late charge in his pink pants made it difficult to appreciate what Harrington did late Sunday afternoon.
 
Of the last 10 players on the course, nine of them averaged a 40 on the back nine. Harrington shot 32.
 
Woods won the U.S. Open on one good leg, and to a much lesser extent, it can be said that Harrington won the British Open with only one good hand. He injured his right wrist the Saturday before the British Open by swinging a club into a bean bag, much like Henry Cotton used to swing into a tire to strengthen his wrists.
 
Harrington has odd practice habits, but they are not without purpose.
 
He often practices hitting the driver with only his right hand, then only his left hand, and sometimes he putts with one leg on the ground. For years, hes created new drills to keep his interest and challenge his skills.
 
Harrington has a friend who is a 2-handicap, and they have a running bet that Harrington can beat him with one hand. Harrington also has a wager with another friend that he can exceed 170 mph ball speed by swinging with one hand.
 
I can hit one-handed -- this is going to sound ridiculous -- farther than I hit it two-handed, Harrington said. There is a little practicality. It is working on strengthening my right side and left side, working on speed on the right side and left side. The only time I practice, silly as it may look, is to improve my golf. I never waste any time.
 
The 36-year-old Harrington is motivated by fear that he is not the greatest talent in golf and must constantly prove himself. He still remembers when he was 18 and dominating junior golf in Ireland, yet a 20-man panel did not put him on the list of best golfers under 21.
 
Ive never looked like I had the surface talent that many players -- stars of the future -- look to have, he said. Whoever was picking could find reasons that maybe my swing didnt look right. In many ways, Id had to deal with that sort of thing. I learned over the years that its more important whats underneath the surface.
 
Harrington had a hard time returning the claret jug at the start of the week, something which all defending champions are required to do. He mainly kept it on his breakfast table, which is where it was Monday morning as he ate his porridge and looked at the Ryder Cup standings on the Internet, his name atop the list for Europe.
 
It was tough giving it back, he said. Im going to enjoy it even more.
 
Harrington took the jug on many journeys last year, none more amusing than his visit to San Francisco. He was in a cab with two friends, the claret jug in its case on his lap, when he noticed the taxi driver wearing a golf glove on his hand. Harrington began chatting about golf without letting on that he was the British Open champion. Only when he got out of the cab did his friends tell the driver that the claret jug was in that case. The cabbie didnt believe a word.
 
I did have a call from one of the lads, Harrington said. And I promised wed bring the jug to San Francisco and hunt down that taxi driver. Thats one thing Im going to do.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Open Championship
  • Full Coverage - Open Championship
     
    Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

    Getty Images

    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

    Getty Images

    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

    Getty Images

    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.