Padraig Harrington Golfs Stopper

By Brian HewittJuly 22, 2007, 4:00 pm
First of all, you must appreciate how voracious Padraig Harringtons appetite is for the practice of golf and what sheer labor it takes to become the Champion Golfer of the Year.
 
Im a worker, Harrington said Sunday, just moments after surviving a nightmare on the 72d hole and defeating Sergio Garcia in a four-hole medal playoff to capture the Open Championship at Carnoustie in Scotland.
 
And, he added, Ive come a long way.
 
He has brought his countrymen and, now, his continent along for the ride. Europe is no longer an embarrassing 0-for-the-21st century in major championships.
 
In 1997 Harringtons prowess was little-known outside of his Dublin home when he and partner Paul McGinley showed up at Kiawah Island in the States for the World Cup. It had been 40 years since the Irish tandem of Harry Bradshaw and Christy OConnor Sr. brought that cup home to the Republic of Ireland.
 
Harrington and McGinley won.
 
Earlier this season the European Tour staged the Irish Open at Adare Manor in County Limerick. It had been 25 years since an Irishman (John OLeary) had won his countrys national championship. Harrington ended that drought as well, outlasting Welshman Bradley Dredge in another playoff.
 
Then came Sunday at Carnoustie where Harrington emerged from a pack of challengers with an eagle on the 14th . Later he watched in disgust as two shots found the Barry Burn and produced a double bogey on the 18th that'if not Van de Veldian--wasnt far off.
 
Only a bogey on the same hole by Garcia, playing in the final twosome, forced the playoff that Harrington quickly commandeered with a birdie on the first. To say Harringtons 3-footer to win on the last playoff hole was a knee-knocker is like calling the Grand Canyon a ditch.
 
He made it.
 
It had been 60 years since an Irishman (Fred Daly) had won the Open Championship. Once again it was Harrington, who had once studied to be an accountant if this golf thing didnt work out, who put an end to the longing and the keening in the pubs and the peat fields of Eire.
 
I could be a long time explaining this, said Harrington, in his pitched and lyrical Irish brogue.
 
No need there, Boy-0. Irelands history of poetry and prose is rich. Shaw, Wilde, Beckett, Joyce and Yeats are just a few of the wordsmiths that have handed down a rich literary tradition in your country. Irelands writers will frame your achievements in words that fit your latest deed.
 
For that matter, all of Europe is claiming you as its own now that you have put an end to your continents major dry spell.
 
Harrington has always been popular in the United States. His distant cousin, Joey Harrington, plays quarterback in the NFL. And somewhere in the USA theres an accountant who already has done the conversion. At the close of business Friday, one pound sterling was worth 2.0566 U.S. dollars. Which means the check they cut Harrington for winning his first major championship was worth $1,542,527.
 
There were so many winners at this 136th Open Championship where the drama played out all week in the wind and the chill and the rain, building to a Sunday climax. Among them were: European golf; the game of golf in general; sports; televised sports; Carnoustie (which had been so reviled during this same event back in 1999); low amateur Rory McIlroy from Northern Ireland; and explosive Andres Romero from Argentina, who finished third.
 
The list goes on.
 
But at the end of this long Scottish days journey into night there was a rainbow framing the Carnoustie clubhouse. And there was Padraig Harrington down there by the 18th green clutching the precious Claret Jug.
 
Im actually not going to put this down, were the first words out of Harringtons mouth in front of the thousands gathered on the grounds and the millions watching on TV. Im going to hang onto it.
 
If it wasnt obvious how much this meant to Harrington all you had to do was look at the face of Garcia and see what it meant to him not to have it.
 
Harrington had hunted 54-hole leader Garcia down from behind. He trailed Garcia by six at the start of the final day. But he never stopped grinding. Never stopped working.
 
So his legacy now, even if he never lifts another club, will be as the Irishman who reached and achieved where others grasped and come up empty.
 
Which is why I wont bet against Padraig Harrington when 156 players convene at the U.S. Open next June at Torrey Pines South in California.
 
After all, no European has won that championship in 37 years.
 
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