The Champion Golfer of the Year, for the second consecutive Open Championship, is the son of an Irish cop and the pride of Dublin. His name is Padraig Harrington and his smile lit up all of Eire Sunday when he outclassed the field of 156 at Royal Birkdale and outfought the English weather that was dire all week.
Another major. Another terrific story.
I got my mind in the right place, Harrington said when it was all over. And I struck the ball right out of the middle of the bat all day.
To the doubters, and there were more than a few who believed there would be no life after Tiger Woods in major championships, you were wrong.
Of course any major with Woods in the field is richer for the presence. And when he comes back from his current enforced layoff due to knee surgery, we will hail his return.
But the game of golf, as Greg Norman likes to ceaselessly refer to it, did quite nicely at Birkdale without the worlds No. 1 player. There were so many good, new, fresh stories.
The continued insurgence of Anthony Kim. The injured soldiering of Harrington who arrived with a sore wrist. Chris Wood, the 20-year-old English amateur who tied for fifth. Runner-up Ian Poulters gritty Sunday 69.
Norman and his new wife, former tennis queen Chris Evert, were fodder for the British tabloids all week. And the 53-year-old Shark actually led by two shots after 54 holes before running out of gas and carding a final round 77.
I wouldve have liked to have won, thats for sure, said Norman, who started with three bogeys. But I really dont feel that bad. My legs werent working as well as they should have.
How about David Duval? He skied to an 83 in Saturdays gales but closed with a Sunday 71. He has been telling us for months that he is close. Now we have evidence.
After 36 holes Duval was tied for fourth. And he offered insight to the TV cameras while standing on the practice ground before teeing off Saturday. Asked about the encouragement he has received from his fellow players on his long trip back from golfing purgatory after he lost his game, he said this:
Theres been a tremendous amount of support, actually. This game is quite cut throat. But underneath it all, because of the struggles of the game and the difficulties of the game it seems like everybody faces in way or another, with the exception of Tiger, people understand these struggles and what it takes to get through and battle through it. And I think thats where the support comes from.
Norman knew all about this. He has received support from a lot of people in the eight major championships in which he had held at least a share of the lead after 54 holes. He has needed the support because he had converted just one of those opportunities ' the 1986 Open Championship.
Watching Norman on the first tee Sunday sent a shiver down my spine. Part of it was excitement at the prospect of seeing history in the making ' the oldest man by more than five years to win a major championship. And part of it was apprehension.
Norman has taken his share of hard knocks from the golf gods. More than his share. He had gone away quietly from the games big stages only to be coaxed back to Birkdale. And now there was the scary possibility of another train wreck.
Writers root for the story. But another inglorious Sunday for Greg Norman in a major championship, no matter how compelling, was a story this writer wanted no part of. Enough is enough.
And, in the end, this was not a meltdown by Norman. Nobody holed out a miracle shot to beat him. He has nothing for which to be ashamed.
Harrington, a grinder in the best sense, was the winner. Everybody else was a non-winner. This time, there were no losers.
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