Harrington Europes best chance for victory


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2008 US Open 81x90BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. ' Padraig Harrington is Europes best hope to end a 78-year wait for a winner at the PGA Championship.
Ever since Scotlands Tommy Armour beat Gene Sarazen 1-up to win the 1930 tournament (then following a match-play format) fans across the pond have had little to cheer about in the last major championship of the season.
Its the same old question arises every time, Englishman Ian Poulter said when asked why the drought has lasted so long.
Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington practices Tuesday at Oakland Hills. (Getty Images)
But there are several reasons why that losing streak might finally come to an end.
First, Harrington has won two of the last five major titles and that may be enough to stamp him as the man to beat when the PGA Championship gets under way Thursday at Oakland Hills in suburban Detroit.
Second, with Tiger Woods still recovering from season-ending knee surgery, few other players have taken advantage by playing consistently well.
Third, the storied old Donald Ross layout has hosted many major, international tournaments, but the last one provides a scrapbook of sweet memories for the Euros.
The European team captured the 2004 Ryder Cup by a landslide 18 1/2 -9 1/2 margin. They danced on the 18th green, sprayed champagne on each other and reveled in victory.
And now almost all of them feel that, since theyve won collectively on the course, why shouldnt one of them do it again?
There are plenty of holdovers from that team who might break the jinx, but Harrington tops the list based on his performance at Carnoustie in 2007 and at Royal Birkdale last month.
Harrington doesnt shy away from such talk.
Will I be ready? I think I will be ready, Harrington said Tuesday. Im reasonably confident that I can get my game
in shape come Thursday. It is a tough golf course, which suits me. (But) Im pretty comfortable with the test ahead.
Like his teammates, he still smiles whenever he thinks back to the last time he played a competitive round at Oakland Hills.
Yeah, I have good memories of this golf course, he said.
But Harrington isnt the only Euro who figures to contend.
Sergio Garcia, of course, is tabbed by many as best player in the world to have never won a major. He played well for the Euros in 2004. He also has a history of playing well in the PGA Championship, finishing second to Woods in that memorable breakout tournament in 1999 at Medinah.
Now he is buoyed by warm recollections of what happened four years ago at Oakland Hills.
It was a great week, he said of the Ryder victory. I remember obviously beating Phil (Mickelson) on Sunday (3-2 in singles). That was nice. The whole week itself was unforgettable.
Poulter, who has been solid in this years majors, might again be a factor. He played just two Ryder Cup matches in 2004 but for a then-28-year-old playing in his first international team competition, it was a magical time.
It was nice to go on the practice ground today. You could kind of picture the way the stands were, where all the signs were, all of that, he said. Obviously those happy memories are around this golf course.
The 156-player field also includes several other members of that European team, any of whom have enough game'and enough happy memories'to grab the title, including Darren Clarke, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Paul Casey and Lee Westwood.
Casey believes with no Tiger prowling Oakland Hills, its anybodys tournament.
Theres probably 20 or 30 guys here who are very, very capable of winning it'maybe even more, he said. Weve seen in the past a lot of guys come from out of the field. Where you are in the world rankings doesnt necessarily mean anything nowadays. Guys are so good.
Westwood is coming off a strong finish at the Bridgestone last week and likes how hes playing.
You look at my record, when I get on a roll I tend to stay on that roll for a good while, he said. And when I win, I win a few tournaments in a block.
Should he win this weekend, Westwoods statement could portend a particularly bleak autumn for members of the U.S. team.
After all, the Ryder Cup matches at Valhalla are just around the corner.
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